A note from our editor, Elizabeth MacBride:
I wrote a few weeks ago that the military-industrial complex, having retreated from Afghanistan, would soon be looking for a new story to sell its wares. I predicted it would be China. Today, in the Wall Street Journal, we saw Eric Schmidt, the former chairman of Google, lobbying for the Pentagon to buy big tech companies’ systems to counter the rise of China. This makes me uneasy for two reasons:
Any division between Silicon Valley and the Pentagon is a straw man; Silicon Valley was built on defense funding and the various arms of the government remain some of the Valley’s biggest clients. Big tech companies have more to gain from a cowed China than the military has from a tech infrastructure it is already deeply invested in.
And second, tech leaders and Schmidt in particular are well-positioned to make the case, in the White House and the media, for the why and how of an aggressive stance against China. Here’s one connection I’ve had my eye on: Tom Kalil, the chief innovation officer of Schmidt Futures, the Schmidt family’s venture facility for public benefit, is also a consultant in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. It’s an unpaid role, a spokeswoman told me, and Kalil (who is by all accounts and in my experience well-respected and thoughtful) will recuse himself from matters related to Schmidt Futures.
But cozy connections raise red flags for journalists. They turn into fait accomplis — and I wonder if a military-tech buildup against China has already been written by the Biden Administration’s stars. And if that’s the case, who benefits?
Of course, there are real reasons to be uneasy about a world in which an authoritarian regime is the ascendant power. But I’m not crazy about one that’s run by and for tech giants, either.
This weekend will be the 20th anniversary of 9/11. The day changed my life. I was 30, living in New York and working as the managing editor of Crain’s New York. After the Twin Towers fell a few blocks from our apartment, and in the suffocating aftermath, I decided not to put off having children any longer. My older daughter, Lillie, was born a year-and-half later. A tragedy that affects an entire community or world changes the trajectories of many lives. The shared fulcrum of change gives us a chance to connect our stories to each others’. I hope you will find ways to connect, remember and honor those who died this weekend.
Times of Entrepreneurship Stories of the Week
3 Women Schooled in a Famous Family Seafood Business Launched a Plant-Based Alternative. They Hit a Tsunami of Opposition.
Shelly Van Cleve and her daughters Monica and Allie made Oprah’s list with a 200-year-old family recipe. Then they launched the Plant Based Seafood Co. and got an earful from their industry.
Austin is a Great and Still-Thriving Innovation Hub. But Then Came the Texas Lawmakers.
Twenty years ago, fears the city would lose its innovative, welcoming edge spawned the “Keep Austin weird” movement. Big corporations and the conservative moment are putting the identity in question, some say.
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You may have missed: Billionaire Hobby Lobby Family Backs a New Accelerator in Oklahoma City Redemptive entrepreneurship has found footing in the evangelical community. Read it here.
You may have missed: An Afghan Immigrant Had Some Clout in his Adopted State, Arkansas. Was it Enough? The untold story of the evacuations: Many lives and deaths were decided on the old rubric of its-who-you-know. Read it here.
Living the Dream
Best Practices: As Steve King, partner in Emergent Research, reports in SmallBizLabs, the number of freelancers rose by an unprecedented 34% in the pandemic, to 51.1 million. The number of full-time independent workers rose by 25%. There are many reasons: Workers rethinking what work means to them, job losses in the pandemic, the growth of online freelance platforms and a perception that traditional jobs are risky. If you are not including the self-employed in your talent sourcing, you are probably missing out.
Buzzworthy: We’ve got our ear to the ground on the question of companies and their travel policies this fall as the Delta variant builds. Big tech companies, including Google and Apple, had already delayed returns to the office till 2022. How will that translate into late-fall conference cancellations in the tech industry, which is hyper-sensitive to the pandemic? All eyes are on Amazon’s giant web services conference, AWS re:Invent. It’s estimated to draw 50,000 people and is currently scheduled for Nov. 29 – Dec. 3.
The 4.5 hour workweek : A productivity hack What if you’re feeling Calvinistic guilt about your desire to reduce the workweek at your company or organization? Don’t miss Joe Pinsker’s story “Kill the 5-day workweek” in the Atlantic, where he shows how Germany’s GDP is on par with many wealthy countries, despite a population that works 400 fewer hours per year than U.S. workers.
Wanderlust : a restaurant or activity from our Top Ecosystems list Satisfy your dumpling cravings next time you’re in Raleigh, N.C. Stop by David’s Dumpling & Noodle Bar and sample the Original Half-Fried Dumplings, Edamame and Mushroom Dumplings or Crispy, Spicy Wontons.
Made in the U.S.A. Stay bite-free as you do your fall gardening. The Herbal Backyard Mosquito Sprayer Set, made by Mama Nature’s Mosquito Juice, relies on an all-natural spray made from garlic and cedarwood oils. Beyond mosquitos, it keeps ticks, gnats and fleas away.
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This story and others on Times of E are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.