This first appeared in the monthly a16z American Dynamism newsletter. Subscribe to stay on top of the latest AD news.
Welcome to the American Dynamism newsletter, our update on the ideas, companies, and individuals building toward a more dynamic future. In each issue, our team will deliver original and curated articles, podcasts, and videos that highlight the resurgence of American industry and innovation, as well as insights into the critical problems — from national security and public safety to housing and education — that entrepreneurs are tackling.
We know there’s a lot of excitement building around the name American Dynamism, but we want to emphasize that this isn’t a new idea for Andreessen Horowitz. Some of our firm’s most exciting investments, including Anduril, Flock Safety, and many more, firmly belong in this category. The only thing that’s changed is that we now have a formal practice through which we can provide all of a16z’s energy, expertise, and resources in a coordinated and dedicated way — just as we have done in our other investment categories.
Our goal since our founding remains the same: to attract and support the best founders in the world who are building the next generationally defining companies. We — along with our growing team — now hope to share the best of what we’re seeing and learning with you on a regular basis.
It’s no secret that widespread labor shortages are critically impacting the United States. In construction, companies can’t replace retiring workers fast enough, and have started offering housing per-diems to attract workers. In education, states are recruiting candidates without teaching experience to fill open teaching roles. We can also see similar shortages — and extreme employer responses — in nursing, transportation, trucking, and other industries.
Critically, these labor crises are not happening in isolation, and they have compounding effects. Staffing shortages put greater pressure on existing employees and catalyze disputes, walkouts, and strikes. Shortages also mean that federal funds are not being properly deployed. For example, the 2021 federal infrastructure bill allocated $1 trillion for infrastructure projects — meaning a lack of skilled construction workers directly hinders the construction of highways, transportation, and other infrastructure projects. The CHIPS act has similarly allocated $52.7 billion to the American semiconductor industry, and the third installment of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds has allocated $190 billion to schools.
Moreover, these labor shortages are likely to endure because they are based on generational factors. Many younger workers have a negative opinion of working in the skilled trades and perceive going to a vocational school as undesirable. Others feel societal pressure to go to a four-year college in order to “matter” in American society. Changing these mindsets will not be fast or easy, as it is now clear that building the American workforce will require building a culture of helping young people find meaningful work — a culture where working with your hands in critical industries for your country is respected, desirable, and, in a word, cool.
These long-term trends are why it is critical to build solutions for the development of the American workforce now. Building American Dynamism requires a robust labor force to do the building. As we’ve said before, we believe startups are core to solving critical problems for the country; as such, we outline here three different models for how startups can directly and indirectly tackle our workforce crises.
Here’s what the American Dynamism portfolio and team have been up to: