Washington Post

I am an entrepreneur, constantly working to advance my businesses and consistently supporting those seeking to grow theirs. In this current election cycle, political commentators describe with growing dismay the anger of the American electorate, and I am left wondering whether the pundits truly understand what is at the root of that anger.

Many blame issues of social values, race relations or income distribution. I‘ve got a different explanation.

For most of our history, political scientists have noted the importance of entrepreneurial opportunity to U.S. democracy, for an individual to positively affect his or her life through hard work. And the aspiration of self-determination through the sweat of one’s own brow sits at the heart of …

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Living in the greater Washington region means you are probably not the smartest person at that cocktail party. That’s a plus. Yet being close to the federal government is often seen as an impediment to entrepreneurial activity.

The truth is, this region is intensely entrepreneurial; many are surprised to hear that over the past several years, more new businesses are formed here than in both Silicon Valley and Boston.

Entrepreneurs here know how to build an emerging industry within government regulations. We here acknowledge that in a highly complex post-industrial society, rules will always exist and government will likely set them. Some suggest that entrepreneurs should ignore rules and regulation and “disrupt” them. The point is more nuanced, though, because even when a business seeks to disrupt existing practices, it needs to understand the regulatory environment it is entering. Uber may be disrupting the taxi industry by not working within existing regulations, but it is fully aware of them. It defines its business model and practices by offering more than its regulated competitors.

An entrepreneur who ignores existing regulations fails to understand the competitive environment within which he or she operates. It’s what sets our region’s entrepreneurial successes apart: the differentiator is that many founders here actually played an active role in shaping rules and thinking ahead of them. It’s about both proximity and insight — insight that comes from…

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I have provided capital for many start-up businesses, and raised money for a few of my own. I am often asked for advice on how or whether an entrepreneur should seek venture capital. My initial advice is simple: Don’t.

Entrepreneurs usually start businesses because they need autonomy and independence; they cannot work for someone else. As my granddad used to tell me, “no one gives you money for nothing.” That is certainly true for investors. They give entrepreneurs cash because they want to make more cash. They expect to be listened to, or at least have their financial interests regarded as the entrepreneur uses their capital to grow his or her business. Boom. Just like that — by taking outside capital — the entrepreneur sacrifices autonomy.

That’s not all. By taking outside capital, the…

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Yesterday’s technological breakthroughs are — quite literally — now sitting in the palm of your hand.

The semiconductor, GPS, Internet protocol — and even that annoying know-it-all Siri — are all in your smart phone, and they were all invented by scientists financed by national security research spending.

The indisputable link between national security spending and development of new industries can be seen in railroads, highways, aviation, telecommunications, and computer software and hardware.

Next year, the federal government plans to spend more than $140 billion on…

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We are living Groundhog Day in the capital region.

The greater Washington region is poised for growth if we learn from the past. Sometimes you need to keep having the same conversation repeatedly to be able to define differences and opportunities.

I have been at a few discussions recently about regional economic growth — and some passionate business people admitted that sharing their ideas felt a little like the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day.” They have said to me, “What’s different now?”

You might remember that Murray’s character keeps repeating the same day over and over. What you might not remember is that…

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Trying to make sense of current financial markets is next to impossible when you consider that complex software is a crucial part of the equation.

Since 2008, world financial markets have become more and more driven by short-term considerations. Markets used to reflect educated human sentiment about economic and business opportunities, but not anymore. Trading technology plus the compensation model for financial asset managers make reading the markets very difficult.

Software that autonomously prices and executes trades across world markets is pervasive and is still expanding. In fact, observers suggest that a majority of trading in markets such as foreign exchanges, commodities and equities is now undertaken by software, and the percentages are increasing.

The trades are not made by humans looking to purchase that commodity but rather by…

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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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