May 22, 2006

After TechLeb

Well, TechLeb has come and gone. Due to the tremendous effort and talent of the organizers, it achieved its two main goals, which were 1. To have a vehement discussion between the Lebanese tech entrepreneur community and the government, specifically on the subject of telecom prices and 2. To generally pull together stakeholders in the Lebanese tech sector. Minister Azour’s wish that TechLeb prove to have been a watershed event in Lebanon’s history may yet be granted.

My own panel didn’t work out quite so well, because I overoptimistically let the time be divided among five speakers, and furthermore failed to anticipate a variety of interruptions. These ranged from ministerial phone calls (I’ve never seen John Cullinane smile so broadly as when Minister Azour was lambasted by a self-styled “angry entrepreneur”), to an MC who decided to take control of Q&A from me, to a panelist who talked at repeated length about off-topic matters. (Yes, I’m irate about parts of that. No, it shouldn’t affect anybody’s overall highly favorable opinion of the conference.)

Anyhow, there were three talks on my panel in which great, on-topic points were made, by Kevin Carroll (VP of IDA Ireland), Anil Khourana, and John Cullinane. I hope I made a useful observation or two as well. I particularly wish there had been more time for Anil’s talk, as he offered not just the experiences of a huge and hugely important country (India), but also well-analyzed insight into the concerns of developing countries in general. And there were other interesting things to be learned from sessions and private conversations as well. I’ll try to work all this into a series of posts soon.

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4 Responses to “After TechLeb”

  1. The Monash Report»Blog Archive » Government initiatives needed for technology development on May 22nd, 2006 8:10 pm

    […] That’s the good news. The more challenging point is that there’s a LOT involved in “barrier removal.” Categories include but are not limited to (and of course I picked a lot of this up at or in connection with TechLeb, most particularly from Kevin Carroll): […]

  2. The Monash Report»Blog Archive » Government initiatives that went awry for technology development on May 22nd, 2006 8:13 pm

    […] The Q&A session to my TechLeb panel did produce a couple of interesting observations. Perhaps the most instructive was I asked for “unsuccess” stories of government intervention — things governments tried to aid tech businesses that didn’t work out so well. Most of the answers all boiled down to the same thing — throwing money at ill-conceived ideas. These could be economically-motivated research projects that never produced much of economic value — Japan’s Fifth Generation Computer Project is a prime example, but there are many similar developed-world fiascos. (Basic research and even military research seem to produce more benefits by serendipidity than economically targeted research does in total.) Or they could be incubators and science parks to which nobody much ever came. But basically, most of the answers amounted to over-optimism about specific initiatives. […]

  3. The Monash Report»Blog Archive » Incubator possibilities and essentials in the developing world on May 23rd, 2006 1:12 am

    […] I came away from TechLeb with some very interesting mixed messages about incubators, science parks, technology trade zones, whatever. (Jacques Masboungi’s talk on the subject was particularly interesting.) On the one hand, they seem to be one of the best things governments can do to foster technology development. On the other hand, they seem to be one of the easiest ways governments can screw up. And since no two projects are the same, it can be hard to generalize from experience. […]

  4. The Monash Report»Blog Archive » on May 23rd, 2006 5:07 pm

    […] One theme at TechLeb was that developing countries need to focus their efforts on particular technology industry subsectors.  It’s a lot easier to come up with a government program that’s really effective for a few kinds of businesses than it is to come up with a plan for strengthening “all” kinds of enterprise.  And of course it’s crucial to get to a critical mass, so that proven success – and proven successful people — in an area spawns more opportunities in similar ventures. […]

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