Vivek Wadhwa

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Vivek Wadhwa
Wadhwa, Vivek.jpg
Born Delhi, India[1]
Residence San Francisco, United States
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Canberra (B.A., 1974)
New York University Stern School of Business (M.B.A., 1986)

Vivek Wadhwa is an American technology entrepreneur and academic.[2] He is a fellow at the Rock Center for Corporate Governance (a joint initiative of Stanford Law School and Stanford Graduate School of Business); President of Innovation and Research at Singularity University; the Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at the Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University;[3] and the author of the 2014 book Innovating Women: The Changing Face of Technology.[4][5]

Early life and education[edit]

Wadhwa graduated from the University of Canberra in 1974 with a Bachelor of Arts in Computing Studies, and from New York University in 1986 with an MBA.[6]


At Credit Suisse First Boston, Wadhwa led the development of a computer-aided software engineering (CASE) tool to develop client-server model software. First Boston spent $150 million on these development efforts. The CASE technology was spun off by First Boston into Seer Technologies in 1990 with an investment of $20 million by IBM.[7] At Seer, Wadhwa was executive VP and chief technology officer. Seer developed tools to build client-server systems.[8] Seer Technologies filed for an IPO in May 1995.[9]

In 1997, Wadhwa founded Relativity Technologies, a company in Raleigh, North Carolina which developed tools for modernizing legacy COBOL programs.[10] He left the company in 2004,[11] and it was sold to Micro Focus in January, 2009.[12]

After a heart attack, Wadhwa shifted his focus to academic research.[13] Wadhwa is Vice President of Academics and Innovation at Singularity University;[14] an executive-in-residence/adjunct professor at the Masters of Engineering Management Program[15] and Director of Research at the Center for Research Commercialization at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering;[16] a fellow at Stanford University's Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance; and a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Halle Institute for Global Learning, at Emory University.[17] He has been a Senior Research Associate at Harvard Law School's Labor and Worklife Program [18] and a visiting professor at the School of Information, at the University of California, Berkeley.[19] He writes a regular column for The Washington Post,[20] Bloomberg BusinessWeek,[21] the American Society of Engineering Education's Prism Magazine,[22][23][24][25] and Forbes, and has written for Foreign Policy[26] and TechCrunch.[27] He is also the author of the 2012 non-fiction book The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent.[28]

Wadhwa serves as an advisor to Malaysia on advancing innovation, science and technology through the Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council (GSIAC).[29][30][31]He also advises Russia on how to create innovation ecosystems through his participation in the New York Academy of Sciences. [32][33][34]

Columnist and pundit[edit]

Wadhwa writes a regular column for The Washington Post,[35] Bloomberg BusinessWeek,[36] the American Society for Engineering Education's Prism Magazine,[37] Forbes, Foreign Policy,[38] TechCrunch[39] and The Wall Street Journal.[40] Wadhwa has argued that because of the low numbers of women technology CEOs, there is a problem with the system.[41][42] In September 2014, Wadhwa released Innovating Women: The Changing Face of Technology, a book he co-authored with Farai Chideya and including contributions from hundreds of women.[43] The book presented research about women in technology and argued that "it's not enough for company executives to make donations or be advisors to groups like Girls Who Code.[44] They must take action and be the good example – just as Facebook did before its IPO.[45] Wadhwa has publicly advocated for more diversity in the technology industry.[46] Wadhwa's research, public debates and articles call for greater inclusion of not only women, but also, African Americans, Hispanics, and older people. An MSNBC article by Alicia Maule on November 14, 2014 quotes Wadhwa as saying "Venture capital is in dismal shape. It produces low returns because it's been the bastion of the boys club, which is not the model that needs to be followed. You need men and women. African-American and Latino – diversity is a catalyst to innovation.”[47]

Wadhwa has argued, based on his research, that older entrepreneurs tend to be more successful. He has written several articles defending older entrepreneurs and arguing that VCs should invest in them. The articles include: The case for old entrepreneurs,[48] Innovation without Age Limits,[49] When It Comes To Founding Successful Startups, Old Guys Rule[50] and Silicon Valley's Dark Secret: It's All About Age.[51]

Wadhwa has researched engineering education in India, China, and the US. He has argued in many articles that US education is superior, and that education is important for US competitiveness. The articles include: Engineering Gap? Fact and Fiction,[52] U.S. Schools Are Still Ahead—Way Ahead[53] and U.S. Schools: Not That Bad.[54]

Wadhwa has argued that higher education is valuable. Alongside Henry Bienen, he debated Peter Thiel, who launched the Thiel Fellowship to provide $100,000 to students who dropped out of college to start up companies, on the merits of higher education. Wadhwa argued against Thiel and Charles Murray at an Intelligence Squared debate in Chicago that was broadcast on NPR stations.[55][56]

Wadhwa has argued that software patents should be abolished, stating that "patents have become the greatest inhibitor to innovation and are holding the United States back." [57][58]

In November 2012 Wadhwa discussed "Technology's Promise, Humanity's Future” with Nobel Laureate Ahmed Zewail at UCSB Campbell Hall in Isla Vista, California.[59][60]

In 2013, Wadhwa debated Nobel Laureate Robert Shiller on "Goldman Vs. Google: A career on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley?" at The Economist's Buttonwood Gathering.[61] Shiller argued that " When you study finance, you are studying how to make things happen, on a big scale, on a lasting scale" and "That has to matter more than getting into Google and programming some little gimmick." [62] Wadhwa argued that “Google is changing the dynamics of cities, changing the dynamics of life" and that technology is enabling the world to be on the verge of solving “the grand challenges of humanity." Wadhwa posed the question, "Would you rather have your children engineering the financial system creating more problems for us, or having a chance of saving the world?” [63][64][65]

Startup Chile[edit]

Startup Chile is a government sponsored program that acts like a focused incubation program and attracts early stage entrepreneurs to work on their startups. The program gives accepted entrepreneurs equity free seed funding, a work visa, office space, and access to mentors and global partnerships with organizations like Google, Amazon Web Services, Evernote, HubSpot and more.[66][67]"Start-Up Chile was born in 2010 from the ideas of two people: a Chilean, Nicolas Shea, who was living in the United States and finishing his master’s at Stanford University, and Vivek Wadhwa, an Indian academic and technology entrepreneur who lives in Silicon Valley. They believed that the best way to go to the next level in innovation and entrepreneurship in Chile was through immigration. Their idea: to bring foreign entrepreneurs to launch their start-ups in Chile, and in so doing to increase the countries access to worldwide business networks." [68] In addition to co-conceiving and helping create Startup Chile, Wadhwa serves as an unpaid advisor and consultant to the program.[69][70]

In addition to co-conceiving and helping create Startup Chile, Wadhwa advised Spanish efforts to create their programs to attract entrepreneurs.[71]

Controversy and criticism[edit]

Wadhwa has, on two occasions, argued publicly that Twitter is overly complacent about improving its diversity numbers. On the first occasion, he criticised Twitter for having an all-male board of directors. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo initially refused to comment, but then in a tweet, disparaged Wadhwa by likening him to "the Carrot Top of academic sources".[72] Subsequently, Twitter appointed a woman, Marjorie Scardino, onto its board. On the second occasion, Wadhwa posted a series of tweets critical of Twitter's published diversity numbers (which included 90% of tech roles being filled by men) and the way in which Twitter had framed them, concluding that Twitter "is unrepentant and should be ashamed. Problems start from board and exec management. Must diversify".[73]

Withdrawal from the societal debate on women in technology[edit]

In 2015, Wadhwa was criticized publicly by several women in technology for the way in which he was speaking on behalf of women in technology. One example mentioned was that at an event, he had used the slang word "floozies"[74][75] when referring to technology companies needing to take hiring women more seriously, in the context of his advocacy for tech companies to include higher-ranking women on interview panels for female candidates. Wadhwa responded to the criticism, writing that he had not known what the word "floozy" meant due to his poor grasp of American slang, as an immigrant, that he had apologized at the event as soon as his misstep was pointed out to him, and that he had lost sleep over this.[76]

The podcast TLDR, which is produced by an NPR affiliate, interviewed one of the critics, Amelia Greenhall, about a post she had recently written, entitled "Quiet, Ladies. @wadhwa is speaking now". Wadhwa published a response, alleging that several false claims were made in the original TLDR episode, and calling it an "unfair attack" on him.[77] TLDR took down their original podcast episode and apologized for not speaking to Wadhwa about it before publication, and expressed regret for not fact-checking it. TLDR's next episode was a follow-up which gave Wadhwa a right of reply.[78] However, Gawker's Jay Hathaway opined that "in the process of defending himself, Vivek Wadhwa ended up confirming much of what TL;DR asserted about his attitude".[79]

On February 23, Wadhwa penned a piece in the Washington Post explaining why he would no longer be participating in the debate on women in technology, writing, "I may have made the mistake of fighting the battles of women in technology for too long. And I may have taken the accusations too personally. Today there is a chorus of very powerful, intelligent, voices who are speaking from personal experience. The women who I have written about, who have lived the discrimination and abuse, as well as others, deserve the air time."[80] New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo wrote a subsequent article entitled "An Outspoken Voice for Women in Tech, Foiled by His Tone" which summarized the imbroglio, and quoted Wadhwa and a number of women in technology in relation to it.[74]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1999, Wadhwa was named a "leader of tomorrow" by Forbes magazine.[81]

In February 2012, Wadhwa was one of the six "2012 Outstanding American by Choice" recipients, a distinction awarded by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.[82]

In December 2012, Wadhwa was recognized by Foreign Policy magazine as a Top 100 Global Thinker.[83]

In June 2013, Wadhwa was named to Time magazine's list of the Top 40 Most Influential Minds in Tech.[84]


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External links[edit]