When Bill Clinton aimed to become President of the US in 1992, he successfully campaigned with advocating more jobs and growth with the slogan: "It's the economy, stupid!” No one would have thought his wife would follow his footsteps at the time.
Since then, a lot of things have changed radically and economy and society are more tech savvy and talent driven than 24 years ago.
They often say that money makes the world go round, but actually it is talent. No doubt. Hillary should claim that "It's the talent, stupid!!" Without people with the right skills and competences there exists no progress, nor continuity. Talent defines your competitive advantage and adds value to the way we live. Corporates, startups, sme's, research institutes: everyone is craving for talent to foster growth and change, to excel, compete or even just to continue existing. In Amsterdam and Eindhoven alone thousands of vacant jobs are available for software engineers and programmers. Companies like Booking, Philips, Travelbird and TomTom do everything to attract the right people for the right jobs and compete globally to attract the best people. Cities play the role of seductive talent magnets and national policies aim to lower the immigration barriers for knowledge workers and startup founders.
When talking to companies like Google, Samsung or Microsoft, they point out that the first thing they look for in a country they consider investing in, is the availability of talent and the excellence of the universities. In other words: the breeding and attracting of more talent.
Behind every innovation or technology stands an innovator or team of innovators. Talent triggers even more talent. It is contagious, because innovative people look for likeminded people and an environment that is open, challenging and provides space to do so. The Netherlands has produced an impressive list of innovations over the last hundred years. The NFIA has a clip with 40 Dutch innovations with global impact, from the Compact Disc, to the electro cardiogram, to Bluetooth and television formats.
Where does this talent come from? Who are the innovators and the change makers? In the US, the ITIF has written a report called "the demographics of innovation". In this report they analyse the backgrounds innovative part of the population (a total of 13.5%). The research looked at people who have earned awards or filed patents. Interestingly, more than one third of them was born outside the US. 10% was born from parents born outside the US and 17% of all innovators are not even US citizens, but have a temporary permit.
In other words: immigration is a huge pool to attract innovative talent! We should be using this opportunity to the fullest. Immigration can be such a huge asset to society if we treat it as an opportunity.
The war on talent would not be so tough, like trying to find water in the desert, if we would really use and foster existing chances and resources. The ITIF also highlighted that only 12 % of all US innovators is female. Last Thursday Neelie opened, together with the amazing Faye de Groot, International Girls in Tech day with 1000nds of girls interested in playing part in developing technology and learning to code. The 15 year old Faye lives in Haarlem and can operate almost any kind of coding language. She would love to become a game developer. The organisation VHTO has arranged for her to visit Guerrilla Games, being accompanied by one of their female management members. Perhaps they will start a new branch: we suggest Guerrilla Games by girls.
If we continue to feed the curiosity of these girls and relate to their world and way of thinking, we can change the demographic imbalance and make women part of developing the future. It is a huge talent pool full of creativity and untapped potential.
This same week the Dutch list of the Inspiring Fifty Tech Women was announced, with the names of the 50 leading Dutch women in technology. On May 25th we will gather all 50 European leading women in Tech in The Hague to share their thoughts and ideas with us. Why make all these lists? Why profile women in tech? First of all to be able to have role models who can inspire others, but also to show that there are plenty of women who have made it or have been there. The President of Harvard is a woman, just like the CEO of IBM and PepsiCo. In the Netherlands we have the CEO's of PostNL and WoltersKluwer and the University Utrecht. Opening up networks to each other as well as to diversity increases the impact of their positions.
The quest for talent could be resolved if we look at the opportunities that are staring us in the face. If we welcome diversity and feel positively challenged by attracting diversity into boardrooms, labs, tech studies etc., we would be able to increase the talent pool and speed up innovation. It all sounds so easy. Diversity in teams is crucial. It is the talent, stupid! Let's make it work!
Neelie Kroes, Special Envoy for Startups
Sigrid Johannisse, Director StartupDelta