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An American Kodak Moment

What We Can Learn From the Disruptive Inventions of the 2000s

A new Third Way report out today compares Kodak Company’s failure to capture the market for digital photography technology it originally pioneered to the United States’ slowly unfolding failure to do the same for clean energy. Spoiler alert: In the end, Kodak went bankrupt because it failed to see the coming revolution in digital film and online image sharing. Will the United States myopia about the coming clean energy economy prove equally damaging? Third Way’s article is reposted below, or you can view the original here.

Today, critics dismiss clean energy as “too expensive,” or “unreliable.”

Some of the most successful innovators and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley are shaking their heads at this characterization.

Deriding new technology is as old as innovation itself. In 1876, Western Union said the telephone was “inherently of no value to us.” Fifty years later, a radio pioneer called television “commercially and financially…an impossibility…of which we need waste little time dreaming.”

But Stephan Dolezalek, a leading Silicon Valley tech investor, argues in a new paper that companies—or countries—ignore disruptive technologies at their own peril. Kodak went bankrupt because it missed the boat on its own invention: the digital camera. Dolezalek gives voice to those who worry that America faces a “Kodak moment” if it treats the emerging $2.3 trillion clean energy market the same way.

Dolezalek’s paper captures what’s being said in Silicon Valley—among technologists, investors and clean tech titans. We’ve brought his argument to Washington in “An American Kodak Moment.”

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