Photograph: Julian Mackler / MACKME.COM

Alexis Madrigal: Why Startups Need To Solve Real Problems Again

About this presentation

Alexis Madrigal thinks our modern entrepreneurial climate has a problem: we’re not solving big problems anymore. The startup boom in the late 90s gave birth to revolutionary mobile devices. Now, the best we can do is Facebook. Madrigal offers two solutions: stop the pervasiveness of “free” web apps and increase the diversity among founding teams. Fresh perspectives, he argues, will bring a new paradigm for startups — and for creativity in general.

About Alexis Madrigal

The New York Observer calls him, “for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter.” Madrigal co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti. He’s spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press). Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley’s Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.


The Atlantic

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  • Shilpi

    I don’t agree with the minority portion. There have been plenty of successful startups in the Silicon Valley which have been founded by “minorities” and in fact, if you look at Pinterest’s team page, you will see that it is very diverse:

    I myself as a woman of Indian descent from the Silicon Valley have never felt set back from being hired by any of these startups, nor have I been set back from creating my own startup solely because of my race and gender.

    I find that by pulling minorities out and saying: hey! They should get hired too! Is actually separating them even more. We are all equals here in the digital age, these startups you have exemplified just *happen* to be founded by a bunch of young white guys. But if you take a look at the “team” pages for many startups, you will see that plenty of women and other ethnicities have been founders and employees of these successful startups in the Silicon Valley.

  • ☛ John Mattucci

    You cannot help but notice that the founders of these successful businesses are overwhelmingly white males, however very successful start-up businesses are in the minority as well.

    I do agree that Alexis’ focus on a small sample of the most successful businesses is flawed. He is looking at an incredibly small sample size of individuals and extrapolating that onto the entire industry.

  • Shayne Cuffy

    This is a very simplistic approach to a far more complex issue. The issue which starts at the basic education level not the VC/StartUp level, where some of us are taught to, “Go get a job” & other are taught to, “Go create a company, go create jobs”. Still nice to hear this matter highlighted, look forward to making contact with Alexis Madrigal soon.

  • perels

    I guess this is a very narrow-focused conclusion based on picking out top 10-ish successful companies mostly in the US. Unfortunately these top 10-ish companies do not represent the entire class of startup companies. In addition he does not even care to look at succesful startups in other places than the US. How about Asia, Europe etc? And why only in software industry? Is the same thing valid in other industries or not? This is more of a peptalk than anything else.

  • Matt

    This guy has to start saying “uhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

  • Adam A. Elmaghraby

    As a former DC Teaching Fellow that is of Arab decent this speaks close to home. I have seen the disparity in fully, I have now taken a career pivot to work within the Bay Area Ecosystem, Alexis has put his finger on the exact challenge that we face in creating the next disruptive idea.
    IN that context, It will be exciting to see how my team, which is Mexican, Indian, and Arab American is received during our pitches :) If anyone has advice let me know!

    Alexis, Thanks for your audacity and powerful storytelling I would love to know who you think is trying to break the mold?

  • pmort

    This video looks Vimeo powered…where’s the ‘Watch Later’ function?

  • Sean Blanda

    We like to keep the on-site player a bit more streamlined. You can see the video on Vimeo here:

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