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The Right Climate for Innovation
CNBC.com | September 19, 2011 | 10:12 AM EDT

What a terrible time to try to sell an innovation. Oh, for the boom years of a decade ago, when investment capital was as plentiful as the dew.

Or maybe not. Yes, there are advantages to boom years. Historians of innovation say, however, there’s a lot to be said—maybe more to be said—about individuals and companies that come up with new ideas in hard times.

After all, there’s no guarantee that a boom-time company will succeed. Remember Pets.com ? And CueCat ? Hundreds of millions of dollars were burned through during the last technology boom by companies that are scarcely a footnote to business history.

And hard times? Reach back to 1938, the depths of the Great Depression. Hewlett-Packard started in a garage. In late 1982, the U.S. was just emerging from a recession. And two entrepreneurs left Xerox to found Adobe . In 2008, as markets crumbled and world economies teetered, Groupon sold its first bargain. Even questions now cropping up about Groupon don’t challenge the point that this rocket lit its fuse in the midst of the current downturn.

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