The Ideas the Smart Money is Chasing
We are searching for the medium that allows people to both learn and teach.
Brad Burnham began his career in information technology with AT&T in 1979. He held a variety of sales, marketing and business development positions there until 1990 when he spun Echo Logic out of Bell Laboratories. As the first AT&T "venture," Echo Logic was a catalyst for the creation of AT&T’s venture capital arm, AT&T Ventures. When Echo Logic was sold in 1993, Brad joined AT&T Ventures as an Executive in Residence. He became a principal at there in 1994 and a General Partner in 1996. At AT&T Ventures, Brad was responsible for 14 investments including, Argon Networks, Audible, Avesta Technologies, Classic Sports Network, Multex Systems, Physicians Online, and Paytrust.
Brad currently serves on the boards of Indeed, Pinch Media, Tumblr, Wesabe, Adaptive Blue, SimulMedia, UpCompany, Meetup, and Bug Labs. Brad has a BA in Political Science from Wesleyan University, is married with two kids and lives in New York City.
This is a confusing time to be a venture capital investor. The models are changing. You could make the argument that it has become more competitive, that valuations are being bid up, that there is a lot of money chasing a small number of really clever new ideas and it’s just a difficult time to be in the business.
I think it’s one of the best times to be in the business because we have an opportunity to think about the way networks impact society and we have an opportunity to invest in companies that can have a positive social impact and still make the best returns possible for our investors. It doesn’t mean that we need to choose between two deals, one which is as an example, hiring parolees and the other that is hiring rich college kids or something and say well this one is better than this one. That’s very unsophisticated. How do we leverage these networks to solve really big social problems?
If you think about the way education is produced today it’s produced in this industrial model, which is the way everything was produced historically because communication was difficult. So we put people in a school. We created a hierarchal structure. We created a lot of cost to educate people and yet if you look at what’s happening today the most ambitious kids, some of them are dropping out of school. They don’t look at education as something that ends when you get to college or get out of college. They look at this as a process of figuring out how to get into a network that is constantly challenging me, constantly pulling me forward and then they also look and say how can I use what I know to help others and then the medium allows people to both learn and teach.
And if you can have the same people who are learning teaching then you move away from this notion of hierarchy and you start to think much more about a flat network and how we can all take advantage of connectivity to both give and receive.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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