Delivering the keynote at the Road to TiEcon virtual conference from his home, the legendary venture capitalist Vinod Khosla spoke deeply and passionately on how the current generation of entrepreneurs must look forward to innovation at a time of pandemic and great racial upheaval.
The Indus Entrepreneurs Conference or TiEcon, organized by TiE Silicon Valley, is one of the most important events in one of the world’s largest ecosystems for technology professionals, entrepreneurs, tech influencers, domain experts, enterprise executives, venture capitalists and educators.
The digital push this year was necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the event organized by TiE Silicon Valley had more than 1,100 people logging in.
Khosla, founder of Sun Microsystems and Khosla Ventures, said that technology in general and specifically artificial intelligence was a double-edged sword.
“It will cause great abundance, great productivity, growth, great GDP growth, and rising inequality.”
He was answering a question from the moderator, Lisa Lambert, chief technology and innovation officer, founder & president, National Grid Partners, about how Silicon Valley and the technology world can make things better.
Technology, Khosla said, is the only tool to enhance human perception and not an instrument of change when it comes to changing people’s bias towards others.
Racism is beyond technology, Khosla said; it goes much deeper.
“A five-year-old child of color isn’t going to get the same education that those of us who live in good neighborhoods. That’s racist. There is racism in property taxes and funding education. So making fundamental policy changes is where we can most impact racism. It takes longer because there is a strong bias towards people of our own class. And that’s pretty racist,” he said.
“Education systems for people of color are much worse than for regular people…. They don’t have the same access. We need to go much deeper and make the shift to create various programs to go address this issue.”
With the current Black Lives Matter protests many companies have woken up to the reality of racism in different levels in the organization, he said.
“Companies like SoftBank and Apple have planned to invest nearly $100 billion on black- and minority-owned technology startups,” he pointed out.
The serial entrepreneur said that for an entrepreneur anytime is an opportunist time, especially when there is great distress in the world.
“This is that time to solve a problem in fundamental ways, which forces us to go beyond the status quo,”Khosla said.
He said entrepreneurs should not have any fear of failure. He said that his “willingness to fail” had allowed him to succeed, and “not be embarrassed by the margins”.
“Silicon Valley is not a place. It’s a culture. It’s a culture of risk-taking. When somebody says it can’t be done, you don’t accept it. You ask, why can’t it be done? They ask a lot of questions. And that is really exciting. And that’s why entrepreneurship is the most powerful tool society has to solve the world’s problems,” Khosla said.