It is remarkable how polarised the discussion of the OLPC has become. You either love it or hate it. I have already said my own say about the value of the OLPC but there is one point that I don’t think has been emphasised enough.
From my perspective, what is insufficiently valued in the discussion about the OLPC is that Negroponte got out there and did something. He used his time, his passion, his networks, and his most precious commodity of all, his reputation to try to make the right thing happen in developing countries. He made mistakes along the way but in the end he galvanised the market around low-cost netbooks in a way that I am willing to wager would have taken years longer under other circumstances. Love it or hate it, the OLPC is a formidable achievement in trying to make information and communication technology work in developing countries. Sure, I would have done it differently but the point is I DIDN’T DO IT. I do have my own bet in this space but that is another story.
Why does having a failed start-up on your CV give you street-cred in Silicon Valley? Because you did something, you pulled your finger out, you nailed your colours to the mast, you tried to manifest something in the world and doubtless learned critical lessons to enable future successes. My favourite blog post so far of 2009 is by French entrepreneur and blogger Loic Le Meur entitled How You Can Start A Business in 2009, With Passion
It has the following provocative instruction:
– repeat after me “ideas have no value, only execution matters”. When you are done repeat that again.
Hyperbolic it may be but that puts a little extra caffeine in my cup every morning.