Vivek Wadhwa Profile

In a recent Washington Post article, avid futurist Vivek Wadhwa recalls his thoughts as a child about the future of technology and how he saw the future of robotics: “Growing up, I believed that soon we would all have robots like Rosie, from The Jetsons, cleaning up after us… but Rosie never came. All I got was a Roomba.”

Wadhwa started his career as a software developer, and through this work gained a deep understanding of the challenges in building complex computer systems. His mission to help crack some of I.T.’s most overwhelming problems began at the investment powerhouse CS First Boston (CSFB) in New York, where he served as Vice President of Information Services. While there he directed the development of technology that created software writing systems. This was so successful that CSFB decided to spinoff that unit into its own company known as Seer Technologies. Wadhwa helped grow the promising startup into a publicly traded company worth $118 million.

Wadhwa is a regular columnist for several publications and websites. He writes for The Washington Post, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Prism Magazine (for the American Society for Engineering Education), Forbes, Foreign Policy, TechCrunch, and The Wall Street Journal.

As a renowned TED Talk speaker and futurist, he has concentrated the focus of his studies on the effect of globalization on U.S. competitiveness and finding solutions to aid the U.S. in holding onto its advantages.

Wadhwa is currently running a critical three-year research project on the effects of technology on future employment and work. Along with a prestigious team at Harvard Law School, this will be the first study on how technology will affect the core of our economy.

He was recently named Silicon Valley Forum’s Visionary Award-Winner. Past honorees include Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Linda Rottenberg, Scott McNealy, Ray Kurzweil, Reed Hastings, Tim O’Reilly, Padmasree Warrior, Anne Wojcicki, Reid Hoffman.

Wadhwa wrote the book The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent (named Book of the Year by The Economist), to explore the advantages of American competition. His research uncovered key bits of information regarding the ages, education, and inspirations of tech innovators, revealing that more than one in four startup companies in the U.S. from 1995 to 2005 was established by someone from another country.

Based on his research, Wadhwa makes the argument that older entrepreneurs tend to be more successful; therefore VCs (Venture Capitalists) should invest in them. He has written many articles defending older entrepreneurs. These articles include: “When It Comes To Founding Successful Startups, Old Guys Rule” (TechCrunch), “Silicon Valley’s Dark Secret: It’s All About Age” (TechCrunch), “The case for old entrepreneurs” (The Washington Post), and “Innovation without Age Limits” (Technology Review).

Wadhwa helped to create a government-sponsored program called Startup Chile. Startup Chile is a business incubation program that encourages early stage entrepreneurs to work on their startups. The program gives these budding entrepreneurs access to mentors and global partnerships with Google, Evernote, Amazon Web Services, and other tech organizations. Wadhwa still serves as a consultant and an unpaid advisor to the program.

Wadhwa holds an MBA from New York University and a B.A. in Computing Studies from the University of Canberra (Australia).

  • View Extended/Alternate Bio

    Vivek Wadhwa is a Fellow at Arthur & Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance, Stanford University; Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at the Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University; and Distinguished Fellow at Singularity University. He has been also a senior research associate at the Labor and Worklife Program of Harvard Law School, a visiting scholar at the School of Information at UC-Berkeley, and a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at The Claus M. Halle Institute for Global Learning at Emory University. He is author of “The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent”—which was named by The Economist as a Book of the Year of 2012, and ” Innovating Women: The Changing Face of Technology”—which documents the struggles and triumphs of women.

    Wadhwa oversees research at Singularity University, which educates a select group of leaders about the exponentially advancing technologies that are soon going to change our world. These advances—in fields such as robotics, A.I., computing, synthetic biology, 3D printing, medicine, and nanomaterials—are making it possible for small teams to do what was once possible only for governments and large corporations to do: solve the grand challenges in education, water, food, shelter, health, and security.

    In his roles at Stanford and Duke, Wadhwa lectures in class on subjects such as entrepreneurship and public policy, helps prepare students for the real world, and leads groundbreaking research projects. He is an advisor to several governments; mentors entrepreneurs; and is a regular columnist for The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal’s Accelerators Blog, Forbes, and the American Society of Engineering Education’s Prism magazine.

    As a researcher, Wadhwa has studied the impact of globalization on U.S. competitiveness and remedies for the U.S. to keep its edge.

    His team’s report on engineering education dispelled many common myths about India’s and China’s graduation rates’ being an order of magnitude greater than those of the U.S. Though both countries graduate many more “engineers” than the U.S. does, their definitions of those terms are loose and include everyone from mechanics to trade-school graduates. Elite institutions in both countries do turn out world-class engineers, but the numbers are small.

    Subsequent research revealed why companies were going off shore and highlighted new trends in the globalization of R&D and innovation. To explain how India was achieving success despite its weak education system, Wadhwa published a seminal research report that analyzed its surrogate education system and workforce-development practices. Indian companies, in particular, have become global centers of excellence in high-skill areas, including software development, chip design, pharmaceutical research, and advanced engineering tasks such as aircraft-engine design. Wadhwa found that the best Indian companies simply accepted the inadequacy of the country’s education system and developed their own, highly innovative, training programs that more than compensated for it.

    Wadhwa’s teams’ research on American competitive advantages focused on entrepreneurship, skilled immigration, and university-research commercialization. It revealed key insights into the age, education background, and motivation of tech entrepreneurs, and documented that more than one in four U.S. technology startups from 1995 to 2005 was founded by an immigrant. These immigrants tended to be highly educated, with strong backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Wadhwa found that a flawed immigration system had created a backlog of more than a million skilled workers who were waiting for permanent-resident visas and that this backlog had the potential to cause a sizeable brain drain of talent from the U.S. to other countries and a weakening of U.S. competitiveness. His subsequent research tracked returnees to India and China and determined that they were having greater success back home.

    Wadhwa has also researched diversity in Silicon Valley–or the lack of it. He documented that women entrepreneurs have the same backgrounds and motivations as men, but are rare in the ranks of technology CEOs or CTOs.

    Wadhwa has collaborated with highly regarded academics from Harvard, Duke, NYU, UC-Berkeley, and other universities. His research, which has been supported by several grants from the Kauffman Foundation and by the Sloan Foundation, has been cited in thousands of national and international media outlets since 2007 and has gained the attention of policy makers. Wadhwa has delivered keynote speeches at dozens of conferences, including those of the National Governors Association and the National Academy of Sciences.

    Before joining Duke University, Wadhwa was a technology executive known for pioneering change and innovation. He started his career as a software developer and gained a deep understanding of the challenges in building computer systems. His quest to help solve some of I.T.’s most daunting problems began at New York–based investment banking powerhouse CS First Boston (CSFB), where he was Vice President of Information Services. There he spearheaded the development of technology for creating computer-aided software-writing systems that was so successful that CSFB decided to spin off that business unit into its own company, Seer Technologies. As its Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Wadhwa helped grow the nascent startup into a $118 million publicly traded company.

    With the explosive growth of the Internet, Wadhwa saw an even greater opportunity to help businesses adapt to new and fast-changing technologies, and founded Relativity Technologies. As a result of his vision, named Wadhwa a Leader of Tomorrow by, and Fortune magazine declared Relativity one of the 25 coolest companies in the world. In Feb 2012, the U.S. Government awarded Wadhwa distinguished recognition as an “Outstanding American by Choice”— for his “commitment to this country and to the common civic values that unite us as Americans.” He was named by Foreign Policy Magazine as Top 100 Global Thinker in 2012. In 2013, TIME Magazine listed him as one of The 40 Most Influential Minds in Tech.

    Wadhwa holds a B.A. in Computing Studies from the University of Canberra, in Australia, and an MBA from New York University. He is founding president of the Carolinas chapter of The IndUS Entrepreneurs (TIE), a non-profit global network intended to foster entrepreneurship. He has been featured in thousands of articles in worldwide publications, including the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Forbes magazine, The Washington Post, The New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, and Science Magazine and has made many appearances on U.S. and international TV stations, including CBS/60 Minutes, PBS, CNN, ABC, NBC, CNBC, and the BBC.

Vivek Wadhwa Speaking Videos

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Vivek Wadhwa's Speech Descriptions

Vivek Wadhwa offers several programs and presentations on innovation and technology, disrupted industries, globalization and entrepreneurship.

In his innovation programs, he addresses the general public’s pessimistic view of the future of technology. Through this program, he discusses how advanced technologies will assist humanity in solving our greatest challenges.

In his disruptive industries series of talks, Wadhwa explains how “disruptive innovation”—which is the swift but effective takeover of an established industry by a competitor—can be a good thing.

The Next Wave Globalization program talks about how the U.S. can stay competitive in the age of globalized innovation.

His insightful talk on entrepreneurship addresses how Hollywood misrepresents the way technological innovation creates entrepreneurs. Wadhwa explains how Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs are not your garden-variety moguls.

Why Innovation Isn’t Dead: A Look at Our Technology Future
There is a lot of pessimism about the future. Some people argue that, other than advances in computer-related fields, technological progress has actually stalled: the internal-combustion engine, invented in 1876, still rules our highways; the cancer death rate has barely changed since 1971; today’s Internet was actually designed in the 1960s. There are fears that world wars will break out over water and energy shortages and that our standards of living will fall. These perceptions couldn’t be further from the truth.

Vivek Wadhwa will discuss why he believes that this will be the most innovative decade in human history. He will explain how exponentially advancing technologies—in fields such as robotics, A.I., computing, synthetic biology, 3D printing, medicine, and nanomaterials—will enable us to start solving humanity’s grand challenges.

Disrupted Industries and Trillion-Dollar Opportunities
Not long ago, you could see your competition coming. Management guru Clayton Christensen coined the term “disruptive innovation” to describe how competition worked: a new entrant attacked a market leader by launching low-end, low-priced products and then relentlessly improving them. Now Christensen’s frameworks have themselves been disrupted—because you can no longer see the competition coming.

Technologies are no longer progressing in a predictable linear fashion, but are advancing exponentially and converging. Fields such as computing, medicine, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, robotics, nanomaterials, and synthetic biology are advancing simultaneously, and combining these allows one industry to rapidly disrupt another—before market leaders even know what has hit them.

Practically every industry will be disrupted over the next few years, including finance, insurance, health care, manufacturing, transportation, education, I.T. services, and communications. Very few of today’s Fortune 500 companies will be on that list by the early 2020s. They will go the way of Blockbuster, Kodak, RIM, Compaq, and Nokia.

This is not all bad news, because disruption creates opportunities. New industries will emerge, and companies that lead the change will have the trillion-dollar market capitalizations.

The Next Wave Globalization: China, India and How the U.S. Can Keep Its Competitive Edge in the Midst of Globalized Innovation
Academics, policy makers and business executives say that the U.S. is falling behind in math and science education and is losing its global advantage because China and India graduate more engineers. They cite poor test results, declining international rankings and decreasing enrollment in the hard sciences. They believe the remedy for U.S. competitiveness is to graduate more engineers and scientists.

America has reason to worry, but the problems aren’t its graduation rates or international rankings. China and India’s advantages are much different than we understand. They may graduate large numbers of engineers, but the quality of the education is so poor that they have to be retrained when they start work. To continue to lead, America has to focus on its core advantages and not try to be like its new global competitors.

What Makes an Entrepreneur and How Can We Make More of Them?
The legends of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and other high-tech entrepreneurs have fed a stereotypical vision of innovation in America: Mix a brainy college dropout, a garage-incubated idea and a powerful venture capitalist, stir well, and you get the latest Silicon Valley powerhouse. That’s Hollywood’s version of technological innovation; unfortunately, it’s also the one that venture capitalists try to fund and government planners seek to replicate. But these individuals are not America’s typical entrepreneurs and that is not the way to build innovation systems.

Vivek Wadhwa on Speaking

I always have people tell me that my talk changed their way of thinking and made them realize what an amazing period we live in.

SPEAKING.COM: What do you want people to learn/take away from your presentations?

WADHWA: I always have people tell me that my talk changed their way of thinking and made them realize what an amazing period we live in. They begin to realize the opportunities and risks of advancing technologies. They begin to see the world in a different way.

SPEAKING.COM: What kind of special prep work do you do prior to an event? How do you prepare for your speaking engagements?

WADHWA: In all, I have about 15 hours of speaking content from the two-day workshops that I conduct for executives of billion dollar companies and the university classes I teach. I usually speak to the organizers of the events to learn what their objectives are and the backgrounds of the people who will be in the event and tailor my presentation to their needs. No two talks I give are ever the same because they are geared to the audience.

There is nothing more rewarding than inspiring and motivating other people to work towards making the world a better place.

SPEAKING.COM: Have you had any particularly memorable speaking engagements / unusual situations arise while on the road?

WADHWA: I always have people lined up after my talks and get emails from the participants telling me how I have opened their minds and changed their outlooks. Parents always ask how they can educate their children on what they have learned. I have had CEOs tell me that my talks or workshops have caused them to change their business strategy. Entrepreneurs thank me for showing them how to think bigger.

This is what makes it worthwhile for me to be doing all this. This is why I give talks and why I teach—because I can have a positive impact on people. There is nothing more rewarding than inspiring and motivating other people to work towards making the world a better place.

SPEAKING.COM: What types of audiences would most benefit from your message?

WADHWA: My focus right now is business executives and students. That is because they can act on what they learn and improve their businesses or career prospects, but I can also positively impact many other audiences as well.

SPEAKING.COM: Which of your keynote speaking topics are your favorites and why?

WADHWA: My favorite talks are about using technology to make the world a better place. Yes, I teach business executives how to survive disruptions and rethink the way they innovate, but I have more fun teaching entrepreneurs how to solve global problems and save the world!

That is the beauty of teaching—you learn by sharing knowledge.

SPEAKING.COM: What inspired you to start doing speaking engagements?

WADHWA: I used to be a technology entrepreneur and founded two companies. We took the first one public and built very successful businesses. Then I had a massive heart attack because I had burnt myself out. I decided to spend the rest of my life learning, teaching, and helping others. That is why I joined Duke University, and later Harvard, UC-Berkeley, Emory, Stanford, and Singularity University. (Yes, I know I may have been asking for another heart attack!).

Most of my talks for the first few years were in academia and then I started receiving requests from business executives to speak at their events. I started doing this about two years ago and have found this very rewarding—because I can have a positive impact on their business strategies and learn a lot from them. That is the beauty of teaching—you learn by sharing knowledge.

SPEAKING.COM: How do you keep your audience engaged and actively listening during your keynotes? Do you use case studies, personal stories and/or in your speeches?

WADHWA: I speak to the audience as if they were my friends and we were talking one on one. I don’t give canned speeches; instead, I focus on building bonds with the audience and teaching what is of interest to them. My job, when I am on-stage, is to teach and inspire.

SPEAKING.COM: What are some of the successes you’ve helped clients achieve?

WADHWA: Nearly every group I have spoken in front of has told me that my lectures were educational, inspiring, and motivational. I know that I have helped them think bigger and take advantage of the amazing opportunities that advancing technologies bring. Exclusive Interview with Vivek Wadhwa
Creating a Star Trek Future with Vivek Wadhwa
In this interview, Vivek Wadhwa discusses:

  • How exponential technologies will change every industry faster than we think.
  • The economic consequences that new technologies will present.
  • The future of education and why college matters more than ever.
    Read the Full Interview
  • "Even though this seems hard to believe, we are less than 15 years away from being able to generate 100% of today’s energy needs through solar."
    - Vivek Wadhwa

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