MILWAUKEE – Start-up culture requires some key ingredients. Technology companies need to get ethical. Big change is coming.
Those were among the messages of Kara Swisher, a New York Times contributing opinion writer who spoke at the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s Economic Forum 2018. Held Oct. 30 at The Pfister Hotel in Downtown Milwaukee, the luncheon’s co-chairs were Linda Gorens-Levey, Gregory S. Marcus, David Lubar and Allan “Bud” Selig.
Swisher, the executive editor of Recode of Vox Media, listed several ingredients for a successful start-up culture. These included having a good ecosystem in place, having a venture capital culture and an ability to take risks.
Timing helps, too, she said.
“There is Facebook and yet there is Myspace. There is Apple and there are dozens of companies that are not Apple,” she said. “You have to be there at the right moment.”
“If you are an entrepreneur … you have to think about the consequences of what you’re creating,” Swisher said. “Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequence.”
“The Russians did not hack Facebook. They were customers of Facebook. They used it the way it was built.”
Technology giants have created a system that can put our nation “asunder,” she said. “I don’t say that lightly.”
She predicted that government may increasingly look for ways to rein in tech giants.
Change is coming
Massive change is on the horizon, thanks to technology. It’s going to be big.
“These are not photo apps,” Swisher said.
“The way we design these is going to be crucial to the outcome — I’m not saying it lightly — of the human race,” she said. “You’ve got to think of who designs the (artificial intelligence).”
“You’ve got to think of what self-driving means for jobs, not just truck drivers,” she said, referring to the use of driverless trucks for hauling commercial goods. It’s a development that industry observers are expecting in some form in the next several years.
“If you think things have changed drastically in the last 20 years, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
During a panel discussion afterwards, Joe Kirgues, co-founder of gener8tor, talked about how it can be harder to find venture capital in Milwaukee for start-ups, as opposed to in Silicon Valley. It was suggested that in Silicon Valley, it’s a badge of honor to be supporting start-ups, while in the Midwest it’s viewed as a possibly disappointing risk.
Also on the panel was Dr. Nick Turkal, president and CEO of Advocate Aurora Health. (Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care merged earlier this year.)
Swisher asked Turkal why healthcare in general has been slow to innovate. Turkal provided a list, saying he knows they’re “excuses”: Government regulation; concern with privacy and safety; and a mindset that you learn a body of knowledge and then apply it.
He said Advocate Aurora Health spurs innovation, as when it brings a large group of employees together and asks them to solve a problem.
All three on the panel, moderated by Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow in law and public policy at Marquette University Law School, conveyed that innovation is important and Milwaukee must find its way.