If you’re interested in something that comes with the title “hardtech,” you’ll find many of the parties involved in tonight’s Large Event in San Francisco that are hoping to raise capital today. There are some odd human-interest stories about people both inside and outside of government involved in coming up with a cure for the coronavirus. You’ll find financial institutions like London’s Royal Bank of Scotland, Western Union, and the finance sector’s family desk scrambling. And somehow there will be two former US presidents in attendance: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Welcome to the poster child for in-between times. Right now, you have two very different systems that each represent technologies with enormous potential. One is the medicine-based vision of technology-driven enterprise. The other is the technology-driven enterprise that is protecting its competitive position while embracing the insular costs and issues that are endemic to being a global company. And for those out of the relationship business who see a vastly different model, it comes with a different and hard concept—market fit.
All of the industries in the biotech-based vision are very interested in the funding needed to operate. Those who are running for president are probably the only ones who don’t need to worry. As a former X-conomist and a serial entrepreneur who isn’t just hoping to continue building software, I’m reminded of the key point: The role of governments is not to stimulate investment but to provide risk capital. The role of entrepreneurs and executives is to secure capital. Since the ideology of entrepreneurial capitalism is built around tech startups, that is hard. So it might be a challenge in Silicon Valley for startups and how they fit into the investments already in motion. Meanwhile, in other economic environments that encourage more diversified structures, finding product market fit is much easier.
In Europe, where institutional investors have much deeper pools of capital than the US, it’s going to be especially tough to market an idea in a constrained economy. “There’s not a huge amount of private capital, but with that capital comes a tremendous amount of stress,” Carleton Murray, a technology and IPOs partner at technology giant Goldman Sachs, told Bloomberg. “An IPO is expensive for everyone involved,” he said. “There’s no way of getting a profit in this market until you come to the public market. So the public market is not a good environment for a lot of technology companies because it’s harder to get institutional funding from a lot of these companies.”