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Vivek  Wadhwa

Vivek Wadhwa

Renowned Technology Entrepreneur & Academic


Vivek Wadhwa is a Distinguished Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering and a Director of Research at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering. He is a globally syndicated columnist for The Washington Post and 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 of Innovating Women: The Changing Face of Technology, which documents the struggles and triumphs of women. Read More >

Wadhwa has held appointments at Stanford Law School, Harvard Law School, and Emory University, Singularity University.

Wadhwa is based in Silicon Valley and researches exponentially advancing technologies that are soon going to change our world. These advances–in fields such as robotics, artificial intelligence, 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. They will also disrupt industries and create many new policy, law, and ethics issues.

In 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 also named one of the world’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers” by Foreign Policymagazine in that year; in June 2013, he was on TIME magazine’s list of “Tech 40”, one of forty of the most influential minds in tech; and in September 2015, he was second on a list of “ten men worth emulating” in The Financial Times.

Wadhwa teaches subjects such as technology, industry disruption, entrepreneurship, and public policy; researches the policy, law, and ethics issues of exponential technologies; helps prepare students for the real world; and advises several governments. In addition to being a columnist for The Washington Post, he is a contributor to VentureBeatThe Huffington Post, LinkedIn Influencers blog, and the American Society of Engineering Education’s Prism magazine. Prior to joining academia in 2005, Wadhwa founded two software companies. Read Less ^

Speech Topics

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. Read More >

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.

These technologies will disrupt entire industries, provide opportunities to create new ones, and help solve humanity’s grand challenges. For example:

  • 3D printing and robotics will enable manufacturing to return to the U.S.
  • Advances in DNA sequencing and synthetic biology will make it possible to engineer drugs for the individual and create personalized stem cell lines.
  • Autonomous, self-driving cars will revolutionize urban transport.
  • Low-cost tablets and artificial-intelligence–based learning systems will change the teaching paradigm and bring education to the world’s masses.
  • Star Trek–like tricorders, holodecks, and replicators will become a reality.

These advances aren’t going to come from governments and large research labs but from small groups of motivated people. Wadhwa will give you a tour of the Star Trek future we are headed into. Read Less ^

Disruption & Opportunity: How Existing Industries will be Disrupted & New, Trillion Dollar, Industries will Emerge

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. Read More >

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. Business executives need to understand that:

  • Trillion-dollar opportunities happen at the intersections of exponential technologies
  • Disruptions are happening in every industry where technology can be applied
  • Entrepreneurs can now do what only governments and big corporations could do before
  • If they don’t disrupt themselves, they will be disrupted by startups from other industries.

Businesses must learn the new rules of the innovation game and transform their employees into intrapreneurs who think—and act—like the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who are gunning for Goliath.

Vivek Wadhwa will teach the basics of exponential technologies and convergence, provide examples of the disruptions that are under way in several industries, discuss the new rules of the innovation game, and challenge his audience members to think like today’s technology entrepreneurs—and to build the new billion-dollar businesses within their companies. Read Less ^

The Dark Side of Advancing Technologies & Why Policy, Law & Ethics Can’t Keep Up

Our laws and ethical practices have evolved over centuries. Today, technology is on an exponential curve and is touching practically everyone, everywhere. Changes of a magnitude that once took centuries to occur now happen in decades, sometimes in years. We haven’t come to grips with what is ethical, let alone with what the laws should be. The same technologies that are making it possible to solve humanity's grand challenges—in education, water, food, shelter, health, and security—are also creating new nightmares. Read More >

Consider the question of privacy. Our laws date back to the late 19th century, and there is no consensus on what information should be public and what should be private. Our smartphones track our movements and habits. Our Web searches reveal our thoughts. With the wearable devices and medical sensors that are being connected to our smartphones, information about our physiology and health is also coming into the public domain. Where do we draw the line on what is legal—and ethical?

Then there is our DNA. Genome testing will soon become as common as blood tests, and it won’t be easy to protect our genomic data. But we have yet to come to a social consensus on how private medical data can be collected and shared. The technology to edit genes has also advanced to the point at which Nobel Prize winners are calling on scientists to accept a self-imposed moratorium on any attempt to create genetically altered children until the safety and the medical bases for such a step can be better understood.

Artificial Intelligence is advancing rapidly and making amazing things possible in health care, transportation, technology, marketing, and practically every other field where data have to be analyzed—and decisions made. But the advance of this super intelligence has scared even tech luminaries such as Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Stephen Hawking. They fear it will be humanity’s last great invention. Should we stop it; can we stop it?

We will have similar debates about self-driving cars, drones, and robots. These too will record everything we do and will raise new legal and ethical issues. What happens when a self-driving car has a software failure and hits a pedestrian, or a drone’s camera happens to catch someone skinny-dipping in a pool or taking a shower, or a robot kills a human in self-defense?

Thomas Jefferson said in 1816, “Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.”

The problem is that the human mind itself can’t keep pace with the advances that computers are enabling. In this deep and profound talk, Vivek Wadhwa will discuss these advances and the issues they are creating. He will also discuss the indications that we are headed into a jobless future and that there is nothing we can do about this. Read Less ^

How America is Reinventing Itself & Innovation is Globalizing

A common belief is that the sun is setting on the U.S. empire and that China is about to leapfrog the U.S. in economic terms—and in innovation. In addition to economic disadvantages, naysayers have long cited graduation data purporting to show that the U.S. is falling behind in mathematics and science education and have predicted that the U.S. will lose it global advantage because China and India graduate more engineers than does the U.S. Read More >

China, India, and the rest of the world are now innovating as never before. But it isn’t their governments or education systems that are giving them the advantage—it is their nascent entrepreneurs. They are leading the way in innovation and helping the countries transform themselves.

And contrary to popular belief, America is getting further ahead in innovation, it isn’t lagging. The U.S. is reinventing itself, just as it does every 30 or 40 years.

In this talk, Vivek Wadhwa will explain how Exponential technologies are about to cause major disruption in several U.S. industries—but they will wreak havoc on the economies of countries such as China and Russia and the Middle East. That is because manufacturing is once again becoming a local industry and is coming back to the U.S., thanks to robotics and 3D printing; because energy prices, which fell temporarily because of fracking, will fall permanently because of advances in alternative, clean energies such as solar, wind, and geothermal; and because advances in artificial intelligence and computing are automating knowledge work.

Some countries will win in a big way and others will lose. Wadhwa will discuss his research on education and innovation in countries such as India and China and put this in the context of today’s exponential technology advances. He will discuss the opportunities and perils for countries that these technologies are introducing. Read Less ^

A Better Formula for Economic Growth: People, Not Top-Down Clusters

Build a magnificent technology park next to a research university; provide incentives for chosen businesses to locate there; add some venture capital. That is the recipe for harnessing higher education and industry in order to spur economic growth that management consultants touting the "cluster theory" developed by Harvard Business School's Michael E. Porter commonly prescribe. Read More >

Hundreds of regions all over the world have spent billions on such efforts; practically all have failed.

All of these well-intentioned efforts to build Silicon Valley–style technology hubs are based on the same flawed assumptions: government planners can pick industries they want to develop and, by erecting buildings and providing money to entrepreneurs and university researchers, make innovation happen.

It simply doesn't work that way. Innovation takes people who are knowledgeable, motivated, and willing to take risks. Those people have to be connected to one another and to universities by information-sharing social networks.

Vivek Wadhwa helped design the world’s most successful government-sponsored innovation-development effort: StartUp Chile. This focused on bringing talent to Chile and cultivating ties between entrepreneurs. It was so successful that The Economist dubbed it “Chilecon Valley”.

In this talk, Wadhwa will discuss what it takes to build a regional innovation system and dispel some of the myths about entrepreneurs, such as: Read Less ^

  • Venture capital is a prerequisite for building an innovation hub
  • America’s typical tech entrepreneurs are in their 20s (rather, they are in their 40s)
  • Entrepreneurs are like top athletes: born, not made
  • College dropouts make better entrepreneurs
  • Women can’t cut it in the tech world
  • To build an innovation system, create a tech park next to a research university and to add industry subsidies and venture capital.