The 1980’s were characterized by mergers and acquisitions with corporate raiders, financial institutions and the legal profession raking in big bucks in the wake they left behind. The idea behind these M&A’s was to produce economies of scale, and thereby efficiencies in industries and markets. But, in reality what was produced were monolithic companies plagued with bureaucratic inefficiencies, which in turn lobbied governments to deregulate industries and convince regulatory agencies to turn a blind-eye to unethical, and at time illegal, conduct of corporate executives. Then, in the 1990’s the concept of ‘too big to fail’ was born, with populations across the globe suffering the consequences through government bail-outs and economic ‘down-turns.’
The 1990’s also saw the growth of the ‘dot.com bubble’ with small, loss-making companies fetching multi-billion dollar valuations in financial markets, and corporate executives and finance wizards raking in the big bucks. As one well-known dot.com investor remarked in his seminar on venture capitalism, “I don’t care what the company does. The only thing that interests me is how fast I can ‘get in and get out’ while maximizing my profit margin” – with once again the taxpayer and small investor paying the price when the dot.com bubbles began to ‘pop’ all over the place.
However, hope is on the horizon with a present wave of new entrepreneurs, with women making new inroads, and creating companies and jobs across the globe like never before. And, it appears that the capital venurists, which provide the financing for these new companies, are beginning to recognize that the past methods of evaluating business opportunities were ineffective, and in part responsible for the 70-90% failure rates amongst start-ups.
In the past decade, capital venture and start-up gurus such as Steve Blank, author of The Four Steps to the Epiphany and co-author of The Startup Owner’s Manual, have revolutionized the way the entrepreneurial world develops and examines potential investments. As Steve Blank states in Why the Lean Start-up Changes Everything, “the lean approach [helps] new ventures launch products that customers actually want…it favors experimentation over elaborate planning, customer feedback over intuition, and iterative design over traditional ‘big design up front’ development.”
While it might seem obvious that a company would want to develop products or services that people ‘might actually want’, the markets are flooded with gadgets and gimmicks that sales teams everywhere are trying to unload on gullible consumers. In addition, the Internet is inundated with dot.com companies that after nearly a decade in business, and tens of millions of dollars of injected capital, are still in the red with little sign of turning the situation around.
The past hundred years has seen a dramatic change in the way people live and work, and the way in which societies are structured, mainly due to technological innovations at an ever increasing rate, and imaginative application of that technology. For the first time in the history of mankind, societies are not stratified with a small ruling class living a life of leisure and luxury, at the expense of the masses living in abject poverty and slavery or servitude. Today’s societies and economies are dominated by large consumer markets with enough power to produce economic stability (or instability) – with moms at the helm of these markets, as the primary consumer decision-makers of families around the world.
Thanks to the economic empowerment of these women – an empowerment much more important than a few cabinet posts or board positions for a handful of women – societies are increasingly under pressure to develop ethical business environments and stable economies. And, in turn governments, investors and businesses are under increasing pressure to assure that the products and services that they are producing are fulfilling the needs of consumers, rather than creating a bunch of junk that must then be ‘dumped’ on unsuspecting and gullible consumers (or worse arsenals of weapons that perpetuate violence, fear and destruction in societies around the world).
For the first time in the history of the world, technological advancements have made it possible to not only feed, cloth, and shelter the entire world’s population, but to provide everyone with peace, security and a certain quality of life and health. But, that will only happen if consumers become more responsible and informed in their purchases; if businesses become more socially-conscious and informed in producing products and services; and perhaps most importantly if governments become responsive to the needs of their people rather than cow-towing to the special interests of a few people who are motivated and driven by narcissistic greed and war-mongering rhetoric.