Naveen Jain, the billionaire entrepreneur and former Microsoft executive, has joined Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos in the quest to reach (and subsequently harvest) the moon. Jain is the co-founder of Moon Express, the first private company to win government permission to travel to outer space, and which is planning to launch a lunar mission by the end of 2017.
While Moon Express will be going up against superpowers such as China and Russia, Jain insists that for-profit companies–and not government officials–are better positioned to succeed.
“I am convinced that you and I will become the [next] superpower,” Jain told the audience of entrepreneurs and investors at the Collision Conference in New Orleans on Wednesday. He spoke in conversation with Transformation Group co-founder Robert Scoble, along with Ana Kasparian, co-host of the news show The Young Turks. “We are now capable of solving the grand challenges of humanity that used to be done by nation states,” Jain continued. “Nothing is impossible.”
That’s because businesses must answer to their customers in ways that politicians don’t, according to Jain. While nations elect representatives once every several years to serve the broader interests of their constituents, business owners are tasked with bringing in sales on a daily basis. That means they’re more in touch with what the public needs, and what may or may not be working, he argues.
“We as entrepreneurs can be held responsible for our actions every single day, not every election cycle,” Jain added. “The capital goes wherever the opportunities are. If you create great opportunities, people around the world will come support your dream.”
Of course, entrepreneurs are not exempt from setbacks, and overconfidence has certainly landed them in trouble before. Consider that Travis Kalanick, Uber’s infamously brash chief executive, recently admitted to needing leadership help when a video emerged of him berating an Uber driver. On stage, Kasparian also challenged Jain and Scoble to concede that tech founders are just as responsible for the downsides of the technologies they create as they are the upsides. For example, while smartphones have given more users access to information more quickly, they’ve also diminished their attention spans. These days, and thanks to the proliferation of digital devices, people tend to lose concentration after eight seconds, according to a recent Microsoft study. (For context, a goldfish can concentrate solidly for nine second.)
Even so, Jain said that focusing on the negative aspects of technology is too short-sighted. “Technology itself is neither good nor bad,” he said. “People are good or bad. We as the entrepreneurs need to start thinking about how we can become the superpower.”