A Simple Question for Some of Our Greatest Innovators: What Makes You Optimistic?

12/24/12
John Abele (Boston Scientific)

John Abele (Boston Scientific)

Democratization of knowledge (it also makes me nervous).

Sramana Mitra (One Million by One Million)

Sramana Mitra (One Million by One Million)

The focus may get back to real business building, instead of compulsive fund-raising.

Ted Selker (Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley)

Ted Selker (Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley)

We have been living with and understanding urgencies in weather, energy, offshoring, innovation for some time now... we are acting.

Lisa Suennen (Psilos Group)

Lisa Suennen (Psilos Group)

As a person who has worked in the healthcare field for over 25 years, I am extremely optimistic about the recent trend towards the democratization of healthful behavior and good nutrition. We have finally gotten to a point where there is growing recognition across the nation that we can turn around our culture of illness by teaching our children about healthful eating and exercise from an early age. While there are still food ghettos in many parts of the nation, nascent attempts to improve health are everywhere, from laws limiting access to giant sodas (one of the very worst offenders) to health-promoting trucks that visit urban areas with vegetables and fruit to teach children that these foods are fun and healthy to tax incentives for grocery stores to locate themselves in the aforementioned food ghettos to employer-sponsored programs that reward healthy behavior.

Chris DeVore (Founder’s Co-op)

Chris DeVore (Founder’s Co-op)

My kids.

Photo courtesy of Shawn Murphy

Carol Gallagher (Calistoga Pharmaceuticals)

Carol Gallagher (Calistoga Pharmaceuticals)

The key elements for successful innovation and a return on investment remain. We still have significant unmet medical need that patients' and their families are waiting for us to address to make their lives better. We have talented and innovative people who commit themselves to creating a difference for patients and building value for investors. And we have investors who believe (and have proven) they know how to win by picking the right teams and value propositions.

Chris Rizik (Renaissance Venture Capital Fund)

Chris Rizik (Renaissance Venture Capital Fund)

I regularly talk to college and graduate students, and they are a different breed from a generation ago. They are both entrepreneurial and creative, and they're looking for ways to have more of an impact earlier in their careers. It is a far cry from when I graduated and almost all students wanted to go work somewhere safe and big.

Roger Ehrenberg (IA Ventures)

Roger Ehrenberg (IA Ventures)

The cost of testing and proving out true innovation has never been lower (though the costs of scaling truly innovative businesses has never been higher due to the growth stage talent shortage). The abundance of angel and seed dollars is creating a great opportunity set for later-stage investors to finance those early companies with the most exciting prospects and transformative visions for the future, where actual customers have validated the early value proposition.

Joe Panetta (BIOCOM, with son)

Joe Panetta (BIOCOM, with son)

We continue to see the creation of life science companies. I feel optimistic about the growing investment pharma is making in biotech, and with cutting-edge research at southern California's research institutions. What I’m really excited about, though, is the merger of life science, telecommunications, information technology, and electronics to create greater efficiency in the development and delivery of health care products.

Lita Nelsen (MIT Technology Licensing Office)

Lita Nelsen (MIT Technology Licensing Office)

Science keeps moving forward; new cures and new solutions to major problems are improving. Mental illness is beginning to be understood through neuroscience. Radical know-nothing politics was soundly rejected by the American public.Health care is becoming available to all in the US—freeing people to make better decisions about their jobs.

Joe Chung (Redstar Ventures)

Joe Chung (Redstar Ventures)

Ironically, the impending "Series A Crunch." Yes, we're going to see a whole ton of startups do some major "pivots" (aka wrap themselves around a tree) but since these companies were all lightly funded by people willing to take a chance on an unproven team, I think we'll see a high percentage of these teams rebound with a second round of business plans that are 1000% better than their first stab. Everyone has this myth of successful startups beginning with one genius idea, but the reality as far as I've seen is that it's a hugely iterative process involving many mistakes and dead ends. We have an amazing generation of creative and highly capable founders, and this round of adversity is going to hone and season them for future success.

Bill Aulet (MIT Entrepreneurship Center)

Bill Aulet (MIT Entrepreneurship Center)

Seeing the passion and creative irreverence of today’s students. We (older generation) screwed up a lot of things and I am optimistic that they can fix many of them.

Nate Westheimer (NY Tech Meetup)

Nate Westheimer (NY Tech Meetup)

I still only hear of people and companies moving *to* New York to make great things and companies. I haven't heard of anyone or any company leaving New York in improve their chances of success for over 2 years.

(Mogwai) Dave Balter (BzzAgent)

(Mogwai) Dave Balter (BzzAgent)

The fact that Boston has evolved into such an incredibly supportive community. While there are other locations where startups thrive, there are few that can compete with the brother and sister-hood that Boston has become. More broadly, I get crazily inspired by the fact that just when everything seems to look the same…it starts to change all over again.

Kleanthis Xanthopoulos (Regulus Therapeutics)

Kleanthis Xanthopoulos (Regulus Therapeutics)

You have to be an optimist to survive in our industry, because we are doing the impossible---developing drugs. There were several life science companies that successfully entered the public market by means of an IPO in 2012, ranging from preclinical stage biopharmaceutical to mature commercial companies. It provides optimism for growing the life-sciences IPO environment in 2013.

Jesse Berst (GlobalSmartEnergy)

Jesse Berst (GlobalSmartEnergy)

Smart cities can step us up to a new level of livability, workability and sustainability.

Habib Kairouz (Rho Ventures)

Habib Kairouz (Rho Ventures)

The economy seems to be slowly heading in the right direction, assuming no fiscal unraveling in DC. Many large companies are sitting on huge amounts of cash to consolidate. New disruptive trends in mobile, cloud computing, and connected TVs will provide secular growth and innovation opportunities.

David Nordfors

David Nordfors

Despite rising youth unemployment, the slow collapse of education, healthcare, and pension systems, despite the increasingly cynical geopolitics and increasingly violent extremist movements, many young people are showing that they care about the future rather than joining the games of dog-eat-dog. The infrastructure for collective intelligence is building rapidly. Soon we might even be rethinking what democracy means when everyone has a smartphone and social applications have improved. But it's not enough that people are connected. People need to show optimism, can-do mentality and, above all, empathy, to avoid that collective intelligence becoming collective neurosis. It's such activism that now is creating, for example, Facebook pages like "Israel loves Palestine" and "Palestine loves Israel." It makes me hopeful.

Daphne Zohar (PureTech Ventures)

Daphne Zohar (PureTech Ventures)

I’m optimistic about the level of creativity and innovation in academic/entrepreneurial circles and am energized by the massive changes on the horizon for healthcare.

One of the great pleasures of helping to grow Xconomy over the last five-plus years has been getting to know the diverse and fascinating group of people we call the Xconomists, and getting to hang out with them at our various events around the country. And these last few months it has seemed that many of the Xconomists—and indeed many members of the innovation communities that we cover—have a little extra skip in their step. So to get a glimpse of what’s behind that, and as a little holiday present to ourselves, we asked Xconomists to answer a simple question: What makes you optimistic?

We hope you’ll enjoy their answers, in the slideshow above, and that you’ll share your own answer in the comments below. Optimism is, after all, a much less fattening treat than the rest of the holidays’ offerings.