Cover is a startup I’ve been following for quite a while. It’s based in Los Angeles and its job is straightforward:

We design, permit, manufacture, and install beautiful backyard homes in Los Angeles. Completely custom to your property, no subcontractors to deal with, and with a fixed price contract.

A few years, we would have probably labeled them Real-Estate 2.0, which would have entirely missed the point because they’re not tech companies.

You might be fooled because they’ve developed an online geo-zoning diagnostics platform, have a 3D construction simulator, and automated permitting with city officials. They seem to have drawn the line at 3D-printing their modular construction. For now.

But it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t because they are doing something way more exciting than being online and dealing with cumbersome processes with common sense.

They solve a fucking problem.

Now ask yourself: where are the other startups that are solving real problems? Where are the startups NOT involved in pizza deliveries, online baby shower parties, or getting a weekly freshly ground coffee subscription? Where are the investors not myopically focused on MRR and leveraging every bit of lame network effect? How many startups are fighting debt and impoverishment, decent housing, obesity epidemics, or workplace discrimination?

And make no mistake, this question is not about private investment, but public innovation money and our vision about the roles of startups. And two camps are facing off on that matter:

  • The US vision where startups are speculative endeavors that will possibly create jobs as a net social positive.
  • The European vision where startups…

Wait, there’s no real vision in Europe, right? Well, of course, we say AI and deep tech now, but we’re not talking problems, are we? Just tech.

If in doubt, take any potential real problem to solve, like urbanism. Well, the Uber & Lyft of the world is still spoon-feeding us “microbility”. At the same time, we forget that we have several regional markets that have cracked 30 years ago how the city can get reorganized for better living.

This is called buses and bikes. You’re welcome.

So, what do we do about this in 2020? How do we go back to real (hard) problems and invest public money accordingly? We know that “just” training elite AI engineers that will get eventually poached by Google or Palantir is not an option.

Do we?

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