I'm watching CNBC right now and they're featuring two top stories: Facebook's 30% drop since the IPO and SpaceX completing the first commercial space supply mission.
Could it be that the future of innovation lies in driving mankind forward and not getting people to click more ads? Does the Facebook IPO mark the end of our eight year infatuation with social networking that began with Flickr and del.icio.us? Did Draw Something creating $200 million of value and Instagram going for a billion dollars mark a peak?
In the past year, I've seen a lot of rumblings around new areas of opportunity for innovation--marketplaces the move the atomic economic element from the corporation to the individual (Kickstarter, AirBnB, Taskrabbit), hardware creation (Makerbot, Pebble), education (Skillshare, General Assembly) and food supply (Brightfarms, Windowfarms). Let's not forget space and green/clean initiatives. This feels like the kind of investment that not only produces potential positive financial returns, but positive effects on quality of life and human progress.
Facebook, on the other hand, doesn't seem to do a lot for human progress. People mostly spend Facebook time photosharing, playing games, and talking to people they already know.
Even as social networking goes, Twitter seems like a better and more efficient platform for the spread of information and social change.
So will we look back at this moment in history as the time we refocused our priorities in the innovation world to things that make us healthier, smarter, and more in sync with our environment?
I hope so.
It's one of the reasons why I'm glad to be in New York--where we recently announced the new NYU-Poly CUSP school to drive progress in urban environments. It's where we're greening roofs, trading car lanes for bike lanes, building parks on former industrial piers and putting cleantech and creative companies in former naval yards.
Over the next three or four years, I hope to participate in as many of these "forward progress" kinds of startups through my fund. I don't have any kind of double bottom line mandate, but I fully believe that the most sustainable and potentially largest investment returns are going to come from companies that empower and elevate society--so by looking for the best financial bets I think I'll wind up with the companies doing the best for us as well.