Boulevard of Broken Dreams: Why Public Efforts to Boost Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Have Failed and What to Do about It

Boulevard of Broken Dreams: Why Public Efforts to Boost Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Have Failed and What to Do about It

Boulevard of Broken Dreams: Why Public Efforts to Boost Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Have Failed and What to Do about It

Boulevard of Broken Dreams: Why Public Efforts to Boost Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Have Failed and What to Do about It

Synopsis

Silicon Valley, Singapore, Tel Aviv--the global hubs of entrepreneurial activity--all bear the marks of government investment. Yet, for every public intervention that spurs entrepreneurial activity, there are many failed efforts that waste untold billions in taxpayer dollars. When has governmental sponsorship succeeded in boosting growth, and when has it fallen terribly short? Should the government be involved in such undertakings at all? Boulevard of Broken Dreams is the first extensive look at the ways governments have supported entrepreneurs and venture capitalists across decades and continents. Josh Lerner, one of the foremost experts in the field, provides valuable insights into why some public initiatives work while others are hobbled by pitfalls, and he offers suggestions for how public ventures should be implemented in the future.


Discussing the complex history of Silicon Valley and other pioneering centers of venture capital, Lerner uncovers the extent of government influence in prompting growth. He examines the public strategies used to advance new ventures, points to the challenges of these endeavors, and reveals the common flaws undermining far too many programs--poor design, a lack of understanding for the entrepreneurial process, and implementation problems. Lerner explains why governments cannot dictate how venture markets evolve, and why they must balance their positions as catalysts with an awareness of their limited ability to stimulate the entrepreneurial sector.


As governments worldwide seek to spur economic growth in ever more aggressive ways, Boulevard of Broken Dreams offers an important caution. The book argues for a careful approach to government support of entrepreneurial activities, so that the mistakes of earlier efforts are not repeated.

Excerpt

The financial crisis of 2008 opened the door to massive public interventions in the Western economies. In many nations, governments responded to the threats of illiquidity and insolvency by making huge investments in troubled firms, frequently taking large ownership stakes.

The magnitude of these investments boggles the imagination. Consider, for instance, the over $150 billion invested by the U.S. government in AIG (American International Group) in September and November 2008 in exchange for 81 percent of the firm's stock, without any assurances that the ailing insurer would not need more funds. Or the Swiss government's infusion of $60 billion into UBS in exchange for just under 10 percent of the firm's equity: this capital represented about 20 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. Moreover, the pressures in Western nations to rescue other failing sectors—beginning with their automakers—seem unrelenting and suggest that yet more transactions are to come.

Many concerns can be raised about these investments, from the hurried way in which they were designed by a few people behind closed doors to the design flaws that many experts anticipate will limit their effectiveness. But one question has been lost in the discussion. If these extraordinary times call for massive public funds to be used for economic interventions, should they be entirely devoted to propping up troubled entities, or at least partially designed to promote new enterprises? In some sense, 2008 saw the initiation of a massive Western experiment in the government as venture capitalist, but as a very peculiar type of venture capitalist: one that focuses on the most troubled and poorly managed firms in the economy, some of which may be beyond salvation.

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