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Amar Bhide
Works at The Fletcher School
Attended Harvard Business School
Lived in Cambridge, MA


Amar Bhide

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I believe this is hogwash -- fly by journalism at its worst.

As I wrote to a friend who emailed me a link this am:

"There has long been a tilt towards youth among entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, due to some combination of lower opportunity costs and awareness of the pitfalls. Hewlett and Packard who got started in the days before venture capital were a few years out of college for instance.

The rank-and-file also tend to be young -- again because of the opportunity cost issue and because of the sheer energy and stamina thats required. In the early days of venture capital there was a further factor -- skepticism that startups could make it against the big guys

These are quotes from Vinod Khosla in a case that I wrote on Sun Microsystems (the time frame is 1982-83)

On why he could not hire an experienced marketing manager

"I made organization charts for every major company I could think of, and I made over a hundred phone calls. Most of them just hung up on me. When you are 26 years old, look like a little kid, talk with a funny accent and have two people in your company and you're calling the Vice President at DEC or HP, you don't get very far.... Besides, you can't hire someone until you have the money to pay them. Nobody wants to leave established companies to join someplace where they can't even see six months of salary."

or on the recruitment of the software and engineering staff

"Most of the engineers came because they wanted to work with Bill Joy and Andy, who were leaders in the field. They also wanted to work on commercial products that could be leadership products. They were all excited about this kind of stuff because it was well publicized in the research community by Xerox PARC.

"These 'worker bees' weren't as conservative as the senior managers who wouldn't talk to us. In fact, the worker bees considered management in their existing companies a problem. It was the same managers that didn't want to come to work for us."

So whats changed between 1982-83 and now. Id say most of the changes have had a tendency to push age up rather than down.

1. Working at a startup is seen as less risky,

2. There are a lot of people in Silicon Valley, even at the middling ranks, who have "made it." With cash in the bank, the opportunity costs are lower.

3. The amount of VC has exploded, along with deal size. That means that the expected payoffs have to be many times (in absolute numbers) what was expected in the early 80s. Thus companies have to become gynormous very quickly. And to build something gynormous you need technical teams -- and mangers of such teams that really know what they are doing i.e have lots of hands on technical experience. This is not as critical btw after companies go public -- the likes of Microsoft, Google and Facebook will take in and train bright college graduates. But that was always the case with good blue chip companies.

VCs also now bring on "entrepreneurs in residence" who have made it big before and fund the ideas they eventually come up with. These guys too tend to reach out to their network of contacts to staff their ventures. And their networks tend to be of a certain age.

One possible countervailing force may be that Silicon Valley does more "consumer" deals (eg Facebook, Netflix). Historically 70-80 of businesses sold to other businesses (b-to-b in the jargon) rather than to consumers. Arguably this reduces the pressure to hire experienced sales and marketing staff (though interestingly enough even companies like google do maintain large sales staff for fact to face selling). I have not looked at the numbers so I dont know how large the shift to consumer has been. Even so consumer startups like Facebook, Netflix, Twitter also now have a huge and complicated technological backbone which cant stand many glitches or down time. So if anything the pressure to hire experienced technical staff is even greater than in Vinod Khosla's time.

Again an exception to this are startups that produce "apps" for the ipad, iphone and Android devices and do not require much technological sophistication. But these companies are almost never VC backed because they dont "scale" easily.

In short I dont think whoever wrote the story has much of a clue...
A behind-the-scenes report from the most ageist place in America: Silicon Valley.
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Amar Bhide

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Special issue of Capitalism and Society on Philosophical Foundations of Economics with links to free article downloads 
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This strikes me as the default HBS solution to so many things: Throw infinite resources -- which HBS has and no one else does.

There is to be sure a dilemma with managing and grading case discussions. On the one side (I think) cases are wonderful vehicle for "educating for judgment." On the other side the more aggressive (or extroverted) students tend to dominate to the detriment of the others. The 'others' are btw the most easily associated with gender but include a great many male students as well.

A related problem arises with grading: you have to provide some incentive to participate in class but if you do, you end up favoring the more aggressive students.

Many of the less aggressive students end up btw doing much better "in life" btw. In my graduating class for instance Elaine Chao and Meg Whitman were far from the stars of the classroom for instance. The same is true for an even larger number of the men.

Regardless, when I was on the HBS faculty the class room "game" bothered me (though I had been pretty good at it as a student). In the fall of 1991 or so I came up with a simple cheap fix. The "technological" part of the fix (which was implemented on a VAX and then migrated to the internet) was described in a memo I had written then (and which Im happy to share if anyone is interested.) A para from page 4 is apropos:

"Finally, I believe, that classroom dynamics and atmosphere may be improved. First, we can make the foundation laying a truly collaborative exercise, minimizing internal tension and resentments about tyre-biters and chip shotters. My summaries represent the broad, collective view of the class to which everyone has contributed. Second, it is easier to broaden participation in a nonthreatening way; those who might otherwise be hesitant to speak can be brought in at points where they are most likely to add value. Third, and this finding surprised me, the reserved student in class can be articulate, passionate or even quite funny on a computer. The cold electronic medium, remarkably, encourages expressiveness in unlikely individuals!"

I also instituted a complementary change in the grading scheme which effectively reduced the "weight" on classroom participation -- which inevitably tends to be highly subjective -- but did not eliminate the incentive to participate.

I tried to get my colleagues to adopt this system, but there were virtually no takers. Too much work some of them told me. So now we have the gold plated fix...
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Rahul Deodhar's profile photo
Unfortunately most of the experts read things minutely while missing the big picture completely. Et tu Black?
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New issue, issued! (keeping fingers crossed nothing goes amiss...)
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An email from a Columbia college senior.

"I was present at the seminar with Professor Philippe Aghion (Creative Destruction and Subjective Well-Being). Professor X had invited me to attend.

"I found the questions you asked very intriguing, particularly the ones regarding separating creative destruction and non-destructive, supplementary innovation. That got me interested in your work — I bought a copy of your book A Call for Judgement.

"I agreed with a lot of what you wrote, and used some of the ideas in an essay I submitted to Professor X just a week back.

"I’d love to talk to you after spring break about your research!

"Thanks so much!

"PS. I hope I can get my book signed too? "

We are inclined to think of millennials as being excessively laid back. At least a few though are unbelievably driven and diligent, perhaps because they or their parents figured out early on that its a winner take all world. And this level of drive can make it even more so.
I fear for my hard working but not crushingly driven daughter.
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Terence Nazareth's profile photoJayant Kanitkar's profile photoAmar Bhide's profile photo
Terence:  there is ABSOLUTELY no risk of this happening. ;-)  And thats forward guidance you can count on!
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This oped was prompted by an email from an eminent macro-economist (who is not on this list) in response to an earlier oped that Ned Phelps and I had written:
“Dear Amar,” he wrote, “Just saw your piece.  Monetary policy given to Congress and only based on hard and proven science?     Interesting suggestions. “
As it happens there are a great many choices, especially in the public sphere, where we must act without “hard and proven science.”  But we take precautions.  Our system of democracy restrains elected or appointed officials from acting on instincts or impulse.  We don’t want any Maos decreeing the slaughter of ‘pestilent’ sparrows only to let grain-eating locusts proliferate. 
Where people’s beliefs and interests diverge we favor open debates and hearings that accommodate a wide range of views.  We are more willing to consent if our dissent has been heard.
Independent reviews (“checks and balances”) help control the misjudgments and self-dealing of those in power.  
By decentralizing where we can, we limit the harm of bad choices and increase accountability.
Furthermore defusing the hazards of concentrated monetary power does not require subjecting the Fed to the whims of a dysfunctional Congress.  Think of our courts that are open to the public, highly decentralized, largely independent but not a law unto themselves.  Verdicts and can be overturned on appeal and rulings nullified by legislation.  Similarly although we dread politicizing the military we don’t leave war just to the generals.  The President can relieve them of their command and Congress can cut off funds for unpopular campaigns.  
But if Fed accountability is to become more than its chairman’s ritualistic appearances, we have to shift its mission and methods from top-down “macro” to more bottoms up-“micro”. 
So my prescription rejects both Hayek’s competitive, privately issued money and Friedman’s centralized control of monetary policy.  Rather it reflects Elinor Ostrom’s preference for decentralized, localized joint action.
Unfortunately none of this is in standard analyses of monetary policy – there the argument is mainly about what kind of centralized control is best.  Its not even explicit in my oped.  One day I hope to spell it out.
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Author of "A Call for Judgment: Sensible Finance for a Dynamic Economy" ; "The Venturesome Economy"; The Origin and Evolution of New Busineses"; Of Politics and Economic Reality..
  • Harvard Business School
    Business, 1985 - 1988
  • Harvard Business School
    Business, 1977 - 1979
  • Indian Institute of Technology Bombay
    Chemical Engineering, 1972 - 1977
  • Bombay Scottish
    elementary through high scool, 1960 - 1971
Basic Information
Professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
  • The Fletcher School
    Thomas Schmidheiny Professor, 6 - present
  • Kennedey School, Harvard University
    Visiting Scholar, 6 - 5
  • Columbia Business School
    Lawrence D. Glaubinger Professor, 6 - 5
  • Harvard Business School
    Asst., then Associate Professor, 6 - 5
  • E.F. Hutton
    Proprietary Trader
  • McKinsey & Company
    Associate, 1980 - 1985
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Cambridge, MA - New York, NY - Mumbai, India - Stockholm, Sweden - Somerville, MA