There is much that public policy can do to support American entrepreneurs. Health insurance reform will make it easier for entrepreneurs to take a chance on a new business without putting their family's health at risk. Tort reform will make it easier to take prudent risks on new products in a number of sectors.
Customers don't know what they want. There's plenty of good psychology research that shows that people are not able to accurately predict how they would behave in the future. So asking them, 'Would you buy my product if it had these three features?' or 'How would you react if we changed our product this way?' is a waste of time. They don't know.
Science and vision are not opposites or even at odds. They need each other. I sometimes hear other startup folks say something along the lines of: 'If entrepreneurship was a science, then anyone could do it.' I'd like to point out that even science is a science, and still very few people can do it, let alone do it well.
Here in Silicon Valley, I have taken part in hundreds of conversations trying to convince people to dive in and become entrepreneurs. All too often, innovators with good, safe, jobs are unwilling to put their family's access to health care at risk by walking away from company-backed medical insurance.
There was a study done in the early 20th century of all the entrepreneurs who entered the automobile industry around the same time as Henry Ford there were something like 500 automotive companies that got funded, had the internal combustion engine, had the technology, and had the vision. Sixty percent of them folded within a couple of years.
I can't say I'm not grateful to have journalists writing about me as a genius. But I know it's not true. I'm not confused. I understand that success comes through a lot of failure and a lot of very embarrassing failure. People want to create the next Facebook, but they are too afraid to create the next Facemash.
The attributes for entrepreneurs cut both ways. You need the ability to ignore inconvenient facts and see the world as it should be and not as it is. This inspires people to take huge leaps of faith. But this blindness to facts can be a liability, too. The characteristics that help entrepreneurs succeed can also lead to their failure.