WASHINGTON—Venture capitalists know what it feels like when a company is firing on all cylinders. But it’s been a while since the whole country had that feeling of dynamism—so why not focus on companies that help the cause by supporting the national interest, solving critical problems, and doing fundamentally new things? In the most recent episode of ITIF's Innovation Files podcast, Rob Atkinson, president of ITIF, and Jackie Whisman, chief development officer at ITIF, talked with Ben Horowitz and Katherine Boyle of the leading Silicon Valley VC firm Andreessen Horowitz about investing in American dynamism and how it impacts key issues in the United States.
On competition with China, Ben Horowitz said:
One of the big misunderstandings is that we’re behind China technologically—actually, we’re not. If you look at most technical fields, U.S private companies are far ahead of China. American universities are also ahead. But when it comes to deployment in the government and particularly in the Department of Defense, we are far behind, and there is a lack of ability to convert what we’re doing for the good of the country. That is the thing that we’re really focused on.
On the war in Ukraine and rich innovators:
An amazing thing in the Russia-Ukrainian war has been Starlink, Elon Musk’s company. It’s basically keeping communications on for Ukraine. That has been far more impactful than anything that the U.S government has actually done. Meanwhile, Musk is getting attacked by senators and the president for random, ridiculous things like having too much money. I don’t know how our most productive, private citizens and our best investors somehow became villains instead of heroes over the years.
On the pandemic:
The CDC didn’t deliver the mRNA vaccines and had we relied on them to come up with an mRNA vaccine, it would’ve been a catastrophe. The FCC didn’t build Zoom. One of the things that we know from building companies is that if you’re inventing things, newer, smaller companies are usually going to be way more effective than an older one—newer meaning run by its founder rather than an older company.
On American dynamism, Katherine Boyle added:
Half of unicorn startups have a foreign-born co-founder or an immigrant co-founder. That’s the best advertisement for America. It means that the best and brightest from all over the world do see Silicon Valley as the place to be when they want to build something. Silicon Valley is an idea, not a region anymore. People want to come to America and build groundbreaking generational companies in various problems that often support the national interest. We do have a lot of hope that this trend of American dynamism is going to be one of the biggest trends in technology over the coming decades.