John Doerr: "The tech industry is doing a good job in politics"
Kleiner Perkins partner John Doerr, who also co-founded the lobby group TechNet, thinks that Silicon Valley has done a good job of engaging with the political world on immigration reform, and that startups shouldn't fool themselves into thinking they can get by without government.
At PandoMonthly in San Francisco tonight, Doerr told Sarah Lacy that, since the 2012 presidential election, Republicans have recognized the need to better connect with Hispanic voters. Consequently, the US is now at a moment when "the immigration issue is going to be solved," he said.
While it won't be easy to get the labor unions and the liberal Democrats to compromise with the high-tech industry to get more high-skilled immigrants in the country, as well as implement a "startup visa" for foreign entrepreneurs, Doerr believes there has been great progress on immigration reform – and that the tech industry has been effective in making its voice heard.
“The tech industry has done a pretty darn good job of being engaged and getting things done," he said, noting that that's good news because immigration reform is important to America innovation and being competitive with the rest of the world.
He also argued that startups can't afford to ignore political issues. "There’s this myth that you can go in the garage and start a company on your own," Doerr said. "That’s dead wrong.”
He noted that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) brought us the Internet, GPS, and circuit advances, and that the government and the US's universities are still where most of the quality research and development is done in the country. With the exception of perhaps Google, for which he sits on the board, few companies are doing good R&D these days, he said.
In general, though, he feels that startups are well enough engaged with policy issues. And just as well; he thinks they have a leading role to play in the future of the national economy. "The policy makers, the political leaders, and even the nation looks to innovation and entrepreneurship as fundamental to America, and important to get better, more prosperous lives."
Paraphrasing Bill Gates, Doerr said that entrepreneurs have the potential to "elevate the prosperity of the world."
At the end of the evening, Doerr said that the best thing the government could do for the country is not spend money on building out infrastructure, but to get high-speed gigabit Internet to the whole country, and particularly in schools. "I'd like to see a national race to the top for people to do this, and then there would be competitive providers [for gigabit]," he said.
He noted that Google has already taken the lead on gigabit Internet and that cities clamored to be selected as the company's testbeds. All the government has to do, then, Doerr suggested, "is get outta the way."