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In the world today, there are probably over fifty-thousand problems or more still in need of solutions and certainly some better ideas. Online there is an explosion of wonderful things, innovations, inventions, discoveries and small business start-ups seeking to solve some of these problems.
And then what happens to them? That is a good question. And in one of these posts, I’m going to try and answer that. But, before I get on a tangent about only 1.9% of women owned businesses getting any venture capital and how start-ups, especially women owned start-ups are ending up with loan packages at 40% interest rates and having to pay off investors at the two or three year mark when the business should be getting established, then taking a hit instead – I’ll cover some of the things still needing solutions.
But first, I found this article in my twitter feed and went over to read it –
It describes why the US may have missed out on millions of inventors. Their research indicates that –
WHY IT MATTERS
Innovation has slowed in the U.S., stymying economic growth. To get back on track, the U.S. needs more low-income children, women, and minorities to become inventors — but that won’t be easy.
The research also shows that innovation in the U.S. could quadruple if women, minorities, and children from low-income families became inventors at the same rate as men from high-income families.
Whatever policies are eventually adopted, policymakers need to think in terms of long-term solutions. “You want is to increase the pipeline of people on the supply side who are great inventors,” Van Reenen said. “You want to take the talent that is already in America and get those kids imagining themselves being an inventor or potential inventor. It is not a quick fix, but in the long run it is going to be a more effective policy.”
It is worth going and reading that article, however, I just about hit the ceiling when I read it and even now with a four bullet point list of what I want to say about it – well, angrier about it than I can even express.
When a man, young man, or boy in white upper class America comes up with an invention – what happens next is tremendously different than what happens when someone from any other of those groups, gender or income levels invent or innovate something.
There is more than whether someone can believe themselves to be an inventor. It takes being able to have some help and support, protection from theft of the invention and massive amounts of money and networking to get the invention patented, prototyped and then into investor backing processes. Women and minorities don’t have that.
One of these 50,000 plus problems still in need of good solutions and inventions is a way to take mining tailings out of the water system once they’ve been allowed to get into it. Obviously, that continues to be a problem in the United States and around the world.
Let’s say I have designed something for this purpose and am a woman without any real support from friends and family to back my idea to fruition. How often that is the case for every woman, every person without a strong financial foundation and most minorities, people that are poor and people who have disabilities specifically.
There are no family members going to network an attorney friend or blueprint maker to any of us as they would if a white male from an upper class family has the idea. There are no instances of getting some family members to financially back having the prototype made or getting the patent process done or pitching it to other people for us as happens for those guys and their idea.
So, when the researchers in this MIT/Sloan study support putting in place programs to help people who are women, who are poor and who are minorities believe we can invent and be inventors, it is very disingenuous.
We do create, invent solutions, innovate and make inventions that solve real world problems, but without the other components that are obviously available to white men who do it – from family, from friends, from investors, from bankers, from the community at large, from attorneys, from skills in their family’s networks of acquaintances – our inventions are lost to mankind and to our country.
These inventions and innovations either don’t get brought to fruition, are stolen by those who have means as we try to do something with them, or are ignored by companies until the patent we do manage to get doesn’t have the fees paid or runs out – then takes it for nothing.
Families of middle class and below, economically disadvantaged, working poor and outright financially destitute individuals simply are denied the access and equal opportunity for processes of protecting the invention or innovation or idea from inception to realization to be available to us.
Inventing and inventions, innovations and concepts for an innovation that could be brought to the marketplaces are not treated with value in these arenas either because everyone has seen that there is no chance of realizing any rewards from those efforts and bringing it to the marketplace.
Even once the patent is made, prototype created and market analysis is done for some product or invention, there is no money to go forward from that point for people in these groups either. Investors want to see 2 -3 times their money back in short periods of time and see that it can be done without any risk to them whatsoever.
No matter what invention or innovation it may be, there is typically no existing track record of what it will do in the marketplace because it is new or a new approach or has not been done that way already or would have to supplant something else in the market that is currently being used for whatever problem it approaches. That makes it appear to be unworthy of the risk involved of backers putting the money with it that the process would take to bring it into the market successfully.
Some investors, angel investors, venture capital investors, banks and sources intended to serve minority run businesses won’t even approach these new ideas without a track record. And, some loans to do it if not denied, have interest rates of 40% which rob the business potential of the idea at every stage. Then, about the time the business with this new invention or innovation are getting established, investors pull their money out – after 2 – 3 years, if anyone from any of these groups even get that far with it. Most often, the access for funding is simply non-existent no matter how many are approached.
To show the picture a little clearer – if a white male in a family has an idea for an invention, the first thing that happens in his experience with it is to receive respect for his value and the value of whatever he has come up with. Next, family members hook him up with friends of theirs and from their networks of acquaintances, that can help the idea be fleshed out into drawings and plans or they pay for it to be done outright.
Then, family members and business friends hook that guy up with an attorney to write out a non-disclosure agreement so the innovation, invention or idea can be shown to potentially interested companies.
Then, they call their friends and extended family members and pitch the need for backing this idea financially FOR HIM, and line up funds to get the thing going so the patent can be filed and a prototype created.
They might even get drawings or computer work done from a friend or family member or hire it to be done, to show off the idea, invention or innovation so it looks slick when they take it to bankers and friends who have access to invest in it.
Then, rather than the person – the white male from an upper class income in this case, having to pitch the idea, invention or innovation through his own efforts, there is already a team of family members, friends of the family, extended family and business acquaintances of the family supporting him, supporting his efforts, supporting his idea or invention, protecting the invention with appropriate legally binding elements, but also pitching it for him, pitching it to funding sources and rounding up money for it – for him.
That is not what happens to women, people who are poor or even middle-class, minorities, disabled people, elderly people, and children of every other group that is not financially well-off.
But, we do hear a lot of “who do you think you are?” and “why should I give any money to you?” As well as, we do get a lot of ideas, inventions, innovations and fully fleshed out prototypes of inventions and marketable products stolen from us that we’ve invented or created, hijacked from us, diverted from us participating in any of the rewards of them despite having created them.
The stories of that are far and wide, common in so many iterations that the experience of those around me without great financial means match my own in this area.
It is apparently been and continues to be a common practice, to not allow rewards of our inventions, labors, ideas, innovations, new characters, new processes, new possibilities for things to come to us. It must be intentional without those in our society doing it having any understanding of the cost to all of us and our nation’s potential when they do it that way.