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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sarah Lacy and embracing volatility

The keynote speaker at OCLC's Americas Regional Council Member Meeting and Symposium was Sarah Lacy. She was incredible: funny, articulate, insightful,and thought-provoking.

She's a journalist who got her start writing about Silicon Valley and Web 2.0 then took off for 40 weeks all over Africa, India, and China looking for tech entrepreneurs.  

She had a lot of fascinating things to say, but what sticks with me is the reality of what some educators have long been saying: the significant innovation, the rapid job creation, the Big Ideas, aren't coming from us anymore. They're being cooked up in formerly third world countries by people who are solving problems Silicon Valley wouldn't even think of. For instance: in India, there's a guy who has figured out a way to build super cheap transmission stations, providing cell phone service to rural communities for $2 a month per customer. And who knew that in Nigeria, the mostly bootlegged film industry (called "Nollywood") is 2nd after Bollywood in the sheer number of new movies, and third (Hollywood, Bollywood, Nollywood) in terms of revenue?

Lacy said, "Because of when these people were born, where they were born doesn't matter." 

After digging into what makes entrepreneurs tick, she's become one herself. Check out her new company here.

When someone asked her what we could apply from what she had learned to libraries, she put it succinctly: entrepreneurs don't fight and deny volatility; they embrace it. So should we.

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