Illinois or Russia, hmm, there’s the dilemma – which is more corrupt?
I was thinking about this after Larry Robert Olson interviewed me for KABL radio in San Francisco. I had to get in a gentle tweak, because I’ll admit it – How They Did It is a straight up talk about the power of the Heartland.
I love San Francisco, and California, but I had to point out to Larry on air that not all great technology originates from Silicon Valley. If it did, then how do you explain Dane Miller quietly building Biomet in tiny Warsaw, Indiana – achieving 30,000% growth over 25 years? Better than Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway performance over the same 25 years by far (sorry Warren, I love you, but you only hit 19,600%, and that’s just not gonna do). And the miracles of the valley, like eBay? They only returned a lousy 1,000x early investors’ money (I heard Benchmark got back $5B on a $5M investment). Dane Miller’s first investor, a family in Indiana, invested $500k and that turned into $2.5B. That’s with a “B” like billion. Hoosiers. Go figure.
But I can’t exactly crow about everything in my home state of Illinois. The Land of Lincoln is in the worst fiscal shape of any state in the Union. I don’t need to prove the case. Just take a look at the Illinois is Broke website, which explains in excruciating detail what’s going on. What makes this worse is the state of Illinois government, which from all appearances is corrupt, venal and unlikely to change in the near future. The only reaction thus far to massive debt has been to raise taxes, and I’m not sure how that’s going to make the state more appealing for companies to choose to locate in Illinois.
Then I saw Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Feb 7 report on Russia, in which even President Dmitry Medvedev admits his country is steeped in corruption. BusinessWeek continued: “the nation is the world’s most corrupt major economy, according to Transparency International’s 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index.” That’s all a given. But here’s the astounding thing. President Medvedev says he wants Russian entrepreneurs to lead the way, to create new transformational technologies as powerful as Apple. Huh? How do you match utter corruption with the creative and free expression of entrepreneurship? If you knew as an entrepreneur, that with your slightest success, thugs would come knocking on your door, asking for their piece, how do you proceed?
Illinois may be bad, but I’m pretty sure that before Archipelago’s IPO, or Morningstar’s, or Groupon’s upcoming IPO – no one from Illinois state government showed up with their hand out. So I’ll take Illinois over Russia – not as corrupt. Good job Illinois!