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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Innovation & Equality

Three related parts to this piece:

  1. I am incredibly honored to be deliver next year's Frankel Lecture at University of Houston. My plan is to speak about, and write an article that will be published by the Univ of Houston Law Review, on innovation and equality, and specifically how the legal infrastructure of markets, contracts, and the rules of the game have distributional effects. I know there are alot of studies and debates about the distributional effects of IP but I want to focus more on the Lost Einsteins (the series of studies about the lost Einsteins focus more on the educational and socio-economic background impacts, I want to focus on the legal infrastructure while we are already in the game of market competition) and the ways that power, voice and access are shaped by the inventive and creative markets.
  2. I am teaching for the first time this coming fall a course on Entrepreneurship and IP law. If you have related research do you send it my way, I'd love to read it and maybe include it in our readings.
  3. I recently attended a small innovation pitch night at a high school, Shark Tank style. The panel of judges was a #manel, it consisted only of adult men, from the school and the local community. Yes, manels are still pervasive and in some settings it doesn't even occur to the organizers that it's a problem. The students who presented were a majority of boys, sadly, and the quality of judging was questionable. The panel didn't ask key questions and seemed to not grasp some of the ideas presented.  At some point, the panel suggested to one of the few girl student teams that since they were competing in a very saturated market of kitchenware, the girls should use the fact that they are high school students as a publicity and marketing pitch to get attention at fairs. As one smart observer commented to me, the optics of an all-male adult panel giving advice to a teen girls team about using their identities as marketing since their product was not necessarily unique were not good. This team did get funding -- note that the gender aligned with the "sphere" or market in which they were pitching, whereas gender non-alignment - for example a team of girls pitching the creation of a sophisticated app that develops proprietary algorithms is more confusing to a #manel. One of the studies that I am assigning in my Entrepreneurship course is this one: Dana Kanze et al., Male and Female Entrepreneurs Get Asked Different Questions by VCs—and It Affects How Much Funding They Get, HARV. BUS. REV., June 27, 2017. The research begins with the pressing question on why: "There is an enormous gender gap in venture capital funding in the United States. Female entrepreneurs receive only about 2% of all venture funding, despite owning 38% of the businesses in the country." The Columbia University researchers analyzed teams interactions with VC investors at TechCrunch Disrupt New York, an annual startup funding competition. They found that VCs tend to ask men about potential gains and women about potential losses. According to the study, "investors adopted what’s called a promotion orientation when quizzing male entrepreneurs, which means they focused on hopes, achievements, advancement, and ideals. Conversely, when questioning female entrepreneurs they embraced a prevention orientation, which is concerned with safety, responsibility, security, and vigilance." A lot to think about and this fits with the much smaller anecdotal evidence that I witnessed recently. I am super excited and honored to be heading to Wharton in the fall for a special conference in honor of the prolific and groundbreak Ron Gilson, who has been such a leader in questions about start-ups and entrepreneurship and the law. I will be presenting an article that honors his contributions on non-competes but I look forward to thinking more across his many contributions and into these pressing questions about funding, innovation and equality.

Posted by Orly Lobel on April 25, 2019 at 05:25 PM | Permalink


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