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The annual venture capital numbers are in. Venture-backed businesses saw almost $75 billion of investment in 2015, including corporate venture investing — the second-largest annual amount in this category. The bigger story, however, is how much the venture market will change this year.

Despite the record investment amount, the national market showed a significant slowdown in new investments in the fourth quarter. Investors are concerned about the state of the macro economy and the less-than-successful performance of a number of tech-related initial public offerings, and some wonder whether the growing number of venture-backed $1 billion “unicorns” will find their way to an exit for their investors.

While later-stage investment trends were adversely affected by broader market concerns, the early and seed stages enjoyed continued momentum. Nationally, seed and early-stage deal sizes increased and deals continued to occur at a solid pace.

The venture capital market now looks to me like a freight train derailment. The locomotive is off the tracks, and the end of train is still hurtling…

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Media reports are currently full of dire predictions about the Chinese and world economies. I have read reports from otherwise credible financial industry insiders saying we should sell all our stocks, that oil prices will plummet to $10 a barrel and that the world economy will enter a deflationary spiral. Pretty scary stuff.

But, should we be scared? This is not the first time financial insiders have made extreme predictions. I remember being concerned in 2007 when the same characters predicted the Dow would go to 20,000 and oil would jump to $500 a barrel. And, being even more concerned a year later when predictions were made of a 4,000 Dow and a hyper inflationary debt spiral. Yet none of those things turned out to be true.

We tend to blame these market predictions on irrationality. However, I think the cause is…

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Our region’s business community has a self-esteem problem. We nod shamefully when we are told we depend on government dollars for success.

Wrong.

We don’t need to “lessen our dependence on government” as much as we need to adapt our economy to what it will need going forward, and to take advantage of our proximity to the federal government to grow new businesses that benefit from this accessibility. The greater Washington region has long track record of producing large and lasting businesses off our regional strengths. Yes, we will always be a “government town” because federal dollars are a primary source of capital for entrepreneurial activity, both directly and indirectly. We shouldn’t run…

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Last week, I shared my thoughts on trends I consider important for technology in 2016. This week: political and economic issues to look out for.

It just looks like Jerry Springer. This presidential election cycle will continue to amaze and delight — if your idea of entertainment is watching two political parties drive their constituencies into ever greater frenzy. Low-brow media and less-than-healthy political awareness have coalesced into a toxic brew where voters must be engaged at any cost and ratings must be won. “Engaging the base” used to mean getting a party’s strongest supporters to come out and vote, but this time around, “engaging base instincts“ is more descriptive. Look for this 2016 election to be more expensive and more polarizing than any before.

Don’t lose interest. The Federal Reserve will valiantly attempt to…

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As someone who makes his living spotting economic and technology trends, I find the holiday season a good time for reflection and consideration of the year ahead. The ever-growing interconnections of Washington, technology and the world economy will make this year particularly interesting.

While we enjoy our holiday presents, and wonder if we can safely return that hideous sweater, here are a few technology market trends I will be watching in 2016.

The slow motion train wreck. Venture capital will continue to decouple from the “disruption everywhere” keg party prevalent in Silicon Valley. The valuation of many so-called $1 billion unicorns will …

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If you don’t like the real world, you will soon have a choice — a choice with broad implications for our society and technology industry. Facebook, Google, Samsung and many leading venture investors and technology companies are betting that within five years we will be able to strap on some goggles and immerse ourselves in a virtual world of our making.

Virtual reality — and its close cousin augmented reality — are expected to either substitute, or overlay our current ability to experience only what is immediately around us. It promises to allow us to go to the Taj Mahal without leaving our living room, to see the bio and name of the person standing before us in the blink of an eye and be “inside” completely artificial worlds for our entertainment. These technologies promise to blend the “thereness” of experience — where we are the middle of a four-dimensional map we call reality — into the ability to be in the center of new worlds that exist only in software. We would be able to move around those worlds completely independently of our location in reality.

Some have scoffed at the money being spent on developing these technologies. They point out the nerdiness of augmented reality glasses (I see you Google Glass) or the vertigo-inducing first generation Samsung VR headsets. They suggest the technology is not up to the task, or that it is still missing the “killer app” that will …

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Everywhere I go these days, people are talking about cybersecurity and its ability to drive economic growth in the greater Washington region. While they agree on its potential, they often seem to disagree on how we are doing on taking advantage of this opportunity.

If you listen closely, some will say that our region is poised to, or has already become, the “Silicon Valley of cybersecurity.” Others say, “this region has all the attributes, if only we did X” and that until X occurs our region is doomed to have second-class status as a technology innovation community. Some cybersecurity start-ups lament that they need to look elsewhere for product and software development skills and yet others say we have an abundance of cybersecurity talent in the region.

Why is this picture so confusing, and what is the truth?

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Many suggest that a lack of coordination between D.C., Maryland and Virginia politicians and institutions is holding our region back — that we could be attracting more innovation, and more jobs. Frankly, it’s a little simplistic to suggest that if we all just play nice, the region will be able to uniformly flourish.

People in the greater Washington region who talk about the lack of coordination among our jurisdictions often point to Northern California and suggest that its existence in a single state is an advantage. In a Lake Wobegon view of economic development, they suggest a nirvana where counties and localities don’t compete for new businesses or trumpet their advantages to new business formation.

After being in California again last month, doing business in San Francisco, Livermore, Redwood City, Palo Alto and Mountain View, what I saw reminded still belies that capital region argument.

San Francisco has spent considerable effort creating conditions for a technology corridor South of Market. Livermore has invested in an entrepreneur-friendly co-working space to keep startups in the East Bay. When I worked at a law firm in Palo Alto we were offered incentives to locate our offices in downtown Mountain View. The same competition for businesses that we criticize our region’s economic development leadership for pursuing occurs in Northern California, yet somehow that west coast region is successfully driving commercial innovation.

Yes, we need regional coordination in areas of shared resources such as transportation and roads — their interconnected nature requires a coordinated response. Our political leaders should be held accountable for those things. However, asking Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia to coordinate and innovate on business attraction and entrepreneurial support is not rational.

It’s unfair and unreasonable to expect individuals who owe their financial future to promoting narrow economic advantage to somehow zoom out and take on a regional perspective, particularly if they would undermine their own position in the process.

Let’s be realistic. We can ask our universities to coordinate across the region, but they each have objectives they must meet to satisfy their specific constituencies. Politicians are elected to serve a geographic region. Economic development experts are hired to serve politicians and universities. To ask them to promote broader economic development is both unlikely to succeed and also somewhat irrelevant.

Let’s remember that Northern California’s innovation and new business infrastructure grew up before any structures designed to attract them! Its growth was driven by a combination of federal research and development, an educated workforce and the emergence of a new industry — semiconductors. Even today, people will tell you they “work for Silicon Valley.” Similar stories of the emergence of innovation clusters exist across the country. To the which came first, the entrepreneur or the economic development, data show that generally, the entrepreneur comes first.

Healthy businesses are born when entrepreneurs find capital, necessary resources, a favorable regulatory environment and fellow entrepreneurs. More rapid business growth occurs where they can find a ready buyer for their companies, which is why you see a high level of vertical integration between startups and established companies in our nation’s leading innovation communities. To be blunt, entrepreneurs don’t really care where they are when those stars align, only that they align.

Our society uses free market competition as a mechanism to winnow and sharpen entrepreneurial focus — why shouldn’t the same apply to economic development activities that promote business formation and innovation?

Yes, other regions leading our national economy appear to enjoy a high level of coordination, but for the most successful and durable, this coordination is clearly led by the business and entrepreneurial communities.

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I have been saying for a number of years that our national security establishment needs access to entrepreneurs and garage inventors because we as a nation need their agility and new sources of innovation. This is a viewpoint that a growing number of people within the national security establishment have taken up.

Recent acts of terror in Paris and other parts of the world have only accentuated this view. We are constantly reminded that we face national security challenges from small, distributed and agile teams who are using technology against us in unanticipated ways.

We as a country need to respond with technological approaches that are similarly agile and creative. In significant ways, our national security agencies’ existing mechanisms for obtaining innovation inhibit the attraction of new and agile sources of innovation.

However, there are…

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Mark Andreessen and Meg Whitman, two people who ought to know, were recently asked whether “technology creates inequality.” Their answer was a resounding “no.” They were asked the wrong question.

Andreessen is the entrepreneur who co-founded Netscape and has made millions selling his companies to business giants. Whitman heads Hewlett Packard Enterprise. They not only embrace change, but bring it into our everyday lives.

The question should be: Is technology leaving some people behind?

Technology manifests in satisfying human wants — even some wants we didn’t know we had. Many take for granted that…

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