As life moves online, the question who shapes the future design of Internet technology and in which way becomes ever more important. Venture capitalists, investing in technology companies with a long-term investment horizon, have had a profound impact on the Internet by early supporting now dominant organisations like Amazon or Google. An MSc in Social Science of the Internet at the Oxford Internet Institute will prepare me to understand how venture capitalists view the future and what impact that could have on technology and society. Research in this area will help me to shape discussions on digital economies and the future of Internet technology, allowing me to contribute to advancing policy-making and the technology industry itself.
Motivated by the wish to understand the interactions of society and economy, I began my academic career in Philosophy & Economics. I was particularly fascinated by thinking about finance and technology from an interdisciplinary viewpoint, and with regard to their effects. However, having not yet found the right basis for research I chose to seek a professional perspective first. I joined GLS Bank, known for putting great emphasis on the sustainable impact of its banking activities, for an Internet-enabled project hitherto unique in Europe. From thereon, an interest for entrepreneurship drove me further into technology. Subsequently, I have been working at two Internet startups, and together with founders of the latter we successfully raised growth capital from venture capital investors.
Throughout these experiences a central question to me has been who shapes the design of Internet technology—i.e., the abstract idea and the economic model such as a two-sided marketplace platform—apart from the entrepreneurs. Venture capital has had a significant impact on the formation of the Internet; many organisations being fundamental to its present infrastructure have initially been financed by venture capitalists. With their decision to support an entrepreneur’s vision or not they exert power as a potential economic gatekeeper. But even beyond, the decision process of venture capitalists with their time horizon of 5 up to 20 years has societal implications. Having to incorporate many considerations on the future of society, policy, and economy, an investment into a technology company forms a special bet on the future. Only when its technology turns out to have the greatest possible effect on society the economic rewards of an investment can outweigh its risks.
Understanding the venture capitalists’ view of the future will be crucial as with their decisions today they shape the technology of tomorrow. As the Internet becomes more integral to society and economy every day, I deem it essential for policy-makers to know how an important player predicts the future with regard to technology. This applies in particular to Europe, as venture capital funds receive billions of public resources as part of economic policy. While research on venture capital is often confined to economics I believe its impact goes beyond that field which satisfies its study within the Internet Studies. The MSc in Social Science of the Internet would be the ideal environment to pursue such research.
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