First of all, if you aren’t reading Fred Wilson’s blog (one of the most successful venture capitalists in the world, partner in Union Square Ventures) then you are really missing out on the insights from a man who knows the territory very well.
Anyway, he posted a quote in his blog about a week ago on an article about Twitter changing the way we live, from Time magazine.
When we talk about innovation and global competitiveness, we tend to fall back on the easy metric of patents and Ph.D.s. It turns out the U.S. share of both has been in steady decline since peaking in the early ’70s. (In 1970, more than 50% of the world’s graduate degrees in science and engineering were issued by U.S. universities.) Since the mid-’80s, a long progression of doomsayers have warned that our declining market share in the patents-and-Ph.D.s business augurs dark times for American innovation. The specific threats have changed. It was the Japanese who would destroy us in the ’80s; now it’s China and India.
But what actually happened to American innovation during that period? We came up with America Online, Netscape, Amazon, Google, Blogger, Wikipedia, Craigslist, TiVo, Netflix, eBay, the iPod and iPhone, Xbox, Facebook and Twitter itself. Sure, we didn’t build the Prius or the Wii, but if you measure global innovation in terms of actual lifestyle-changing hit products and not just grad students, the U.S. has been lapping the field for the past 20 years.
Think back 10 years, and think of the ways that products in America have changed the way you live. We are innovators, no longer inventors.
Wilson also did a recent interview on the current trends on the internet, and what he expects to see in 2010: