Blogging from Stanford

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My one day trip to California unexpectedly turned into two.

Yesterday Dave Bradford and I had an incredible half hour meeting with the
reigning VC champion of the world, Tim Draper.

He is amazing. He liked our ideas for FundingUniverse but he freely gave us an
even bigger idea, and our whole team is now on fire.

Dave and I left the meeting amazed at how much value he added in just a few
short minutes.

I first met Tim in 1999 when MyFamily.com was looking for our first venture
capital. He and Steve Jurvetson both liked our idea, but we ended up getting a
term sheet from CMGI instead. (Note: I am no longer involved at MyFamily.com,
except as a small shareholder.)

I have run into Tim and Steve a few times since and I have always appreciated
how personable they are.

To get half an hour with the guy who backed Skype and sold it to eBay for
billions is amazing.

So today I am hanging out at Stanford, my favorite thinking place in the Bay

I love the memorial church, built by Jane Stanford and dedicated to the glory
of God and the loving memory of her husband Leland Stanford.

I am blogging on my Blackberry from a comfortable spot nearby in perfect 70
degree weather. This is a heavenly place.

I get sentimental whenever I am here, thinking about how God has blessed the
world through the innovations and ideas that have emerged from Stanford

Where would we be without Stanford and Silicon Valley that surrounds it?

One of the leaders of my faith talked in the 1920s about how God uses his
to save souls and how he inspires business leaders to provide material
blessings and technology to lift the world from a degraded condition.

Both groups, religionists and scientists, can enlighten and lift people.

Today I noticed that Nicholas Negroponte from MIT Labs says he is just a few
months away from delivering $100 laptops to kids around the world, purchased in
minimum quantities of 1 million units.

I have blogged about this before, but it is now almost real.

The day is nearing that billions of people will be able to access the worlds
online library of information and communicate with one another.

The potential good that can come from this is incalculable. Poverty and
illiteracy could be eradicated. Every human being could develop skills and
capabilities and live a worthwhile life.

But at the same time that unprecedented opportunities are emerging to the lives
of people worldwide, we face huge problems of greed, corruption, war, and

We also face a new selfishness, a new hedonism in the developed world.

One manifestation of this is the lowest fertility rate in the history of the
world. Europes population is disappearing because the desire to reproduce and
pass on values and opportunities to children seems to be disappearing.

Just a year or two ago I read a quote by Peter Drucker, the greatest management
thinker of the modern era, who said that negative population growth is the
single biggest challenge facing the civilized world.

Last week in my internet marketing class I paid tribute to Peter Drucker, who
passed away last weekend. And I challenged my 50 students to try to figure out
a non-governmental solution for the declining birthrate in Europe and parts of

I suggested one concept, a Perpetual Civilization Fund, which I admitted is
probably a crackpot idea, that would provide secondary life insurance policies
for older people many of whom experienced large families and appreciate them,
and that the beneficiaries of all the insurance proceeds would be families who
are having their third child or more.

I know some governments are trying to provide financial incentives for women to
bear children. I do not know if they are working.

If you do not think this is a huge problem, read the book ?The Death of the
West? written a few years back. It relies on UN population forecasts to show
how the European population is disappearing.

The total fertility rate in some parts of Europe is 1.1 to 1.4 (it has to be
babies per female in order to maintain status quo population.)

In Nigeria it is 6.5. So the population in some poor countries is exploding but
in the developed world it is shrinking (except through immigration.)

I know the modern world has worked for decades on reducing population growth
because of the so-called Overpopulation problem identified in the 60s.

But the serious problem Peter Drucker points out — the declining population
problem — is far more dangerous.

So I wonder if a solution to this problem, will, like Google and Yahoo, spin
of Stanford or the world of business and science and step forth to save the

(Maybe when cloning is here everyone will want to try it once or twice!)

Or I wonder if it will come from religion. In this world challenge, I am
on religion, because hearts and minds will need to change.

Or maybe a powerful combination of science and religion.

What do you think?

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15 Responses

  1. Alex Popov

    Welcome from San Francisco… Dont limit things to God and Stanford. Its nigger- its a Belief in good things (or Faith) and California! 😉

  2. amacing post! talk about the beauty of mobile bloggin. Its the thoughts that come at the time, place, situation … whoa. Well, I am from Berkeley but I have to agree the Stanford Church is really amazing! I heard an orchestra there last year and I can still hear the violins in my ears!

  3. Nice work, your blog is excellent. I was searching the internet for some info about learning management systems and I somehow ended up on your blog. Although your site is not exactly related to my search, I am certainly glad I stopped by. Oh well, back to surfing and I am sure I will find what I am looking for, and should you ever need information in this area, then stop by for a look. Thanks for the post.

  4. Miriam

    The birthrate is declining partly in response to a lot of the managerial claptrap that does come out of universities like Stanford and Harvard 🙂 We’re just little bits in a huge competitive system, to be disposed and displaced at will, so it makes no sense for a lot of people to bring another person into that system.

  5. Russell Page » Europe’s declining population

    […] Paul Allen is one of my favorite blog reads, and today, he’s got me thinking. Why? We also face a new selfishness, a new hedonism in the developed world. […]

  6. Chris


    Your post on population issues look like they came from “The Death of the West”

    by Pat Buchanan. Great book and great obvservations. I highly recommend the reading.

  7. Umesh Kumar

    I think the claimed purpose of the 100$ laptop will be defeated
    if it shall be sold in mimimum quantities of a million pieces each…
    as that basically means, they shall deal with third world governments only and not
    individual people there who will like to buy it to educate themselves..

    i dont think then we can expect to see its widespread use in india atleast.

  8. nathan

    Loved your post. Very authentic. Moving back to the less philosophical and spiritual things of the world, when do we get to hear about the big idea?
    “He liked our ideas for FundingUniverse but he freely gave us an even bigger idea, and our whole team is now on fire.”
    Our anticipation is haunting.

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