For the Millennials, representing nearly 50% of the workforce, who entered the work world in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, where youth unemployment was pervasive, startup is the social ideal, the culture hero, the tech entrepreneur. Willing to take risks to find a way to make a living that inspires them creatively, and that generates impact, they are removing the divide between corporate and bohemian values. Their ideal social form is neither the commune nor the movement; it’s the startup. This is the innovation engine.

The globalization of innovation has devolved R&D power away from large organizations and closed systems, including Silicon Valley itself, distributing it to highly agile startups and new technology hubs around the world. Silicon Valley is no longer a region. It is a platform, and a state of mind. Large organizations, unable to innovate at the rate and pace of startups, facing unparalleled R&D supply—demand tension, look to global startup investment and acquisition as a mechanism for innovation acceleration and talent sourcing.

The platform economy is disrupting many old and established industries that have traditionally existed as ‘walled gardens’. Platforms disintermediate traditional, linear, business models, creating exponential value, faster, via access, network orchestration, and algorithms. In the platform economy, AI is the new electricity.

Nation-states and transnational bodies such as the EU, businesses, and funds are investing into this wave at unprecedented levels, to activate economic growth, increase competitiveness, create jobs, attract capital, and to profit. Global R&D investment reached a 2018 record high of US$ 1.7 trillion, as countries, through their commitment to the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, increase systemic capital for R&D, directly, and via market shaping public-private partnerships. Considered in this light, impact investment is already a multi-trillion-dollar asset class.

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