Editor’s note: Jonathan Wai is a researcher and writer at the Duke University Talent Identification Program and author of Finding the Next Einstein: Why smart is relative for Psychology Today. Follow him on Twitter.
Vivek Wadhwa argues in his recent book — The Immigrant Exodus — that “the future of America depends on skilled immigrants.” The book begins with his compelling personal journey as a talented immigrant from India and how he jumped at the opportunity to come to America when he was a young man.
Wadhwa is an immigrant who has reached the pinnacle of success in America. He is a regular columnist for The Washington Post and Bloomberg Businessweek, holds academic appointments at Duke, Stanford, Emory, and Singularity Universities, and founded two software companies before joining academia.
In other words, he is a shining example of the thesis of his latest book.
Yet his personal story is not the only evidence he presents. Based on his body of research on talented immigrant entrepreneurs and business leaders, Wadwha makes a compelling case that the future of America may indeed depend, at least in part, on talented immigrants:
“Today many pundits and observers question whether we are witnessing the beginning of the decline of the American empire. And I submit to you that this may indeed be the case. In alienating and locking out skilled immigrant entrepreneurs and inventors, we have not only blocked the flow of the very lifeblood that built the economic backbone of this great country, we have also deadened the nerve endings that create the next great thing. If we restore this flow, we restore our nation.”
Perhaps Wadwha is right. But I think that by solely focusing on talented immigrants we are forgetting about a group of people who are arguably just as, if not more important, for America’s future: talented Americans. Are we doing our best to educate them? The answer, it turns out, is that we are not really doing all that much.
According to the website of the National Association for Gifted Children, the federal government allocates .02 percent of the education budget towards programs for talented Americans. Wadhwa is right to focus on talented immigrants because they make a large impact on our country’s GDP. But what about talented Americans?
Researchers Heiner Rindermann and James Thompson have demonstrated that the top 5 percent of intellectual talent of a country disproportionately impacts the GDP of that country. In other words, the most intellectually talented Americans, which include both those born in America and those who are immigrants, are incredibly important for the future of America.
Yet these talented immigrants who end up in America have developed their talent in education systems that are not American. In other words, the people Wadhwa argues are important are already among the most select individuals from their respective countries.
As I have argued in my article Of Brainiacs And Billionaires regarding the importance of investing in America’s most talented minds:
“In competitive sports there are bench warmers, average players, and stars. In education there are below average, average, and star students. If a coach decided to focus solely on developing the talent of the bench and average players, it is doubtful that fans would approve — it would reduce the competitiveness of the team. Yet we commit the educational equivalent in America — we focus on educating our below average and average students and tend to ignore our top students. If this doesn’t work in the competitive world of sports, why does it make sense in our cutthroat global economy?”
Wadwha has written a compelling book that argues forcefully for opening doors for skilled and talented immigrants. But before we focus on helping the best and brightest from other countries, shouldn’t we be focused on helping the best and brightest of our own country and opening as many doors as we can for them?
I think it is time that we did.
Go here to see the original: The US Needs To Focus Its Educational Efforts On Talented Americans
Detroit used to be the fourth most populous city in the United States. As of 2010, with a population of around 750,000, it ranks 18th. It’s not news that the economy of the city, largely reliant on the automotive industry, has deteriorated significantly.
On our Northern Meetup tour, this was painfully obvious. I didn’t expect the Detroit of the past, but I’d hoped to feel the spirit of Motown, the energy of a city that’s home to sports titans and a major manufacturing center of our country. Instead, I found empty sidewalks and streets and even emptier buildings.
But the startups there, and in neighboring Ann Arbor where the University of Michigan powers the economy, have more talent and determination than most I’ve encountered. And boy, do they have their choice of problems to solve!
Angel Gambino, whose resume can’t fit in an internal clause, sat down with us at the Detroit Meetup at Hockeytown Cafe. She’s worked for major media companies like Viacom, MTV, and BBC, started companies or been a part of startups that have gone on to impressive exits (like Bebo), and is now returning to her hometown of Detroit to reinvest the capital she’s accrued.
In her own words, she’s looking to create a walkable density in the heart of Detroit. But perhaps more importantly, she wants to continue the narrative of the city’s successful past. In fact, she believes this is the remedy for a currently ailing metropolis.
Along with adding specific avenues for funding, mentorship, and retaining local talent, Gambino believes that continuing the legacy of music, automotive, and manufacturing in Motor City is crucial to rebuilding the city’s spirit.
Obviously, her experience with music will help navigate the already cluttered music sector. And where automotive and manufacturing are concerned, she isn’t alone in her effort. Quicken Loans’ Dan Gilbert is buying up buildings and filling them with workers, along with funding two accelerators.
Plus, Ford, Chrysler and GM are still powerhouses that will invest in automotive-related startups that can make a difference. It’s not like there isn’t a plethora of problems in that industry to choose from.
In terms of manufacturing, the city itself is a golden opportunity. The space is available and cheap and in a town known for its manufacturing prowess.
The renaissance is possible, but someone has to lead before many can follow. John Biggs put it best in his piece: “Go there, live there, and repopulate Hack City.”
We had a blast, Detroit. Thanks for having us.
On a brisk November night the city of Detroit — no, the entire Detroit region — turned out for our first Meetup in the Motor City. We took over all four floors of Hockeytown Cafe. The crowd was as eclectic as the area: app builders, makers, curious onlookers, seasoned entrepreneurs, and a surprising amount of venture capitalists, who are seemingly hungry to find (and fund) Detroit’s savior.
We spent just two days in Michigan. We meet with close to 50 companies/entrepreneurs at office hours held in Detroit and Ann Arbor. It’s very clear that there’s something special happening in the area. Compared to other cities, the VC money seems to flow a bit easier with better terms and the talent pool is incredible. Plus, you can essentially buy a skyscraper with lunch money.
The area’s goal seems to be retention. Michigan’s universities churn out hardworking talent at a rapid pace — and then people leave the state. University of Michigan is right down the road from Detroit; Michigan State is a bit farther to the north. There’s Wayne State, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Western Michigan, and the amazing Kettering University in Flint, MI. Just holding onto 5% of this talent base would do wonders for Detroit and Michigan as a whole.
This meetup was personal for me. I live in Michigan. Born, raised, and still residing just outside the city Flint, MI, I understand the pains of Michigan. But I also understand its many strengths. It was important to me to bring the scattered, often-beaten tech community under one roof, even if just for one night.
That’s the goal of all of our meetups from the tiny (but awesome) Greenville, SC meetup to the 1,200 people who turned out for Atlanta. There isn’t another tech event like a TechCrunch Meetup and Detroit made me proud to be a Michigander.
We’re wrapping our Northern tour tonight in Chicago. Come on out, talk startups, and have a great time.
In what is arguably her largest major public speaking appearance since taking over the CEO role at Yahoo this past summer, Marissa Mayer kicked off the third quarter conference call with investors and analysts this afternoon by digging into a decidedly non-technical topic: People.
In particular, Mayer utilized the first few minutes of the call to explain with enthusiasm why she’s focused so much of her energy during her first 100 days as CEO on initiatives such as hiring new executives and bolstering Yahoo’s internal company culture. The human element is central to bringing Yahoo back to its one-time spot as a top consumer Internet company, she said.
“My goals are simple: To execute faster, hire top talent, and make Yahoo the absolute best place to work,” she said.
Though flashy Mayer-led initiatives such as buying new iPhones for all employees and company-wide free lunch have gotten a lot of press, she was quick to point out that attracting and retaining top talent is not all about spending money. “True cultural change can’t be bought, so the vast majority of what we’ve done hasn’t cost anything.”
Mayer said that along with perks like phones and food, she has focused on improving employees’ “efficiency, well-being, and accountability” through things like new feedback tools, reduced corporate bureacracy, and more specific performance measurement and goal metrics.
“We’ve built a stellar world-class leadership team,” she said, adding later, “In Yahoo Fantasy Sports, I would draft this exact group as my dream team.” But later in the call she acknowledged that in many ways, the hard work is just beginning right now. “With the leadership and guidance of our new management team, now it’s time to execute.”
Beyond the human element, Mayer also said she believes a big factor in Yahoo’s turnaround will be restoring a sense of focus to the company’s products. Mobile, especially, is a department that needs cohesion. She said that the fact that Yahoo operates a whopping 76 apps across Android and iOS is evidence of a “splintered” mobile brand presence that needs to be brought together.
“Our top priority is a focused, coherent mobile strategy,” she said. She added later in the call that this is a big issue since “at some point [in the near future] we’ll have to be a predominantly mobile company,” meaning that at least half of Yahoo’s staff will need strong mobile skills. This will be developed through hiring new people and training existing staff, she said.
With all the big changes, however, Mayer was quick to clarify that she sees the keys to Yahoo’s success as being already within the company’s DNA.
“My view is that the core of Yahoo is incredibly valuable and a great platform to build on. I don’t think this is a situation where there is a giant pivot and we go into a completely different business,” she said, noting that Yahoo already strong operations in what she sees as its four key areas: Search, mail, homepage, and mobile. “The future of Yahoo is extraordinarily bright… we’re committed to going back to our roots as a consumer Internet company focused on user experience.”
In his six years at Facebook, Ari Steinberg sired the Platform, ran the news feed, and started the Seattle engineering office, but now he’s decided to move on, TechCrunch has learned and Facebook as well as Steinberg have confirmed. Friday will be his last day working for the social network.
Steinberg verified that founding a travel startup is first on his post-Facebook itinerary.
Ari had a storied tenure, joining Facebook back when it was holed up in modest digs in downtown Palo Alto. He’s known as an instrumental figure that helped turn the news feed into one of the site’s most beloved features. He also crafted the Facebook Platform in 2007 with Dave Morin, making the social network a home for third-party apps.
More recently, Steinberg moved to Seattle to open Facebook’s first remote engineering office. There he built Facebook Messenger For Windows, the company’s first official piece of desktop software.
But after being at the social network for so long, it seems he wants a new challenge. That shouldn’t be taken as a sign Facebook is having trouble retaining talent, but more that he’s grown and learned enough to take his own shot at entrepreneurship. Steinberg tells me “I’ve had an amazing 6 and a half years here, I feel lucky to have worked on such cool stuff with such talented people, and I’m looking forward to trying something new.”
Facebook will need to attract fresh blood or pull from its deep bench of talent as veteran employees like Steinberg, CTO Bret Taylor, and Platform leader Carl Sjogreen depart. In this case, the company has already chosen long-time Facebook software engineer Wayne Change and more recent hire Rohit Wad as the new co-heads of the Seattle office.
Steinberg’s Facebook knowledge will surely serve him at his new startup, as travel is quickly becoming a very social industry.
Apps like Tripl and Cities I’ve Visited have seen huge growth on the platform Ari built. Meanwhile, travel companies are seeing huge returns from Facebook ads, with Inside Facebook reporting that one got $25 in bookings for each dollar in Facebook ad spend.
Travel also looks like a good fit for Steinberg’s passions. He was on safari in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area earlier this month.