INNOVATE2016: Silicon Valley needs to address equality or risk being vilified in the U.S.

Not all is rosy in the Silicon Valley garden.
That’s at least the view of Ross Baird, the founder and executive director of Village Capital, a DC based early stage fund focused on start-ups that are solving what it calls “global problems”.
While Baird acknowledges that Silicon Valley has a concentration of the smartest and most dynamic people in the world, it isn’t producing enough companies that benefit the social good.
Echoing the critique of the influential New Yorker writer George Packer, Baird argues that too many products in Silicon Valley are designed by privileged millennial for other privileged millennials.
Thus the need for a fund like Village Capital – whose backers include tech luminaries like Steve Case, Ben Jealous and Mitch Kapor – to invest in technology start-ups like Pigeonly and Front Row Education which empower underserved communities in the United States.
So how does all this impact politics? According to Baird, Americans are angry with the increasing inequality of opportunity and access – which explains the rise of populists like Trump and Sanders. Silicon Valley, Baird suggests, is part of this problem.
So entrepreneurs and investors need to build innovative products and services that benefit everyone, and not just the privileged.  Unless Silicon Valley becomes more inclusive, Baird warns, eventually the populists will begin to bracket big tech with big banks and big oil as an enemy of ordinary Americans.
Many thanks to CALinnovates for helping produce this interview.