Who Cares What Silicon Valley is Funding?

Some weeks ago, Silicon Valley engaged in another bout of profound reflection and asked whether venture-capital firms were funding the wrong things. Apps that send two-letter messages, Uber for dog shit, on-demand weed delivery.

Nobody thinks about Silicon Valley as much as Silicon Valley. Venture capital is less than 3% the market cap of the NASDAQ and less than 1% of total US equity. Who cares if VCs aren’t funding cancer research?


Real innovation gets its funding elsewhere. The financial industry has been one of the largest benefactors of data science. The porn industry was a huge driver of internet technology.

My research grant at the University of Sydney came from a hedge fund. Something to do with machine learning and algorithmic trading. We don’t much like high-frequency traders, but it’s hard to argue the merits of machine learning research.

Back before VC firms even existed, tobacco companies generously funded medical research on heart disease and stress. Back then, doctors recommended smoking as a cure for stress.

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These days, cigarette companies directly contribute millions to fund cancer research. Tobacco companies are in the process of paying another $200 billion to state governments for tobacco-related health care. When was the last time a Silicon Valley VC raised a $200B fund?

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