“What if 50 percent of that $30 trillion were invested locally?” asks Lynd
Man gesturing and a unicorn

A “Unicorn” in the world of business and finance is a privately held company which has raised $1 billion from investors (i.e., Wall Street). Here in Columbus the much-hyped Olive AI, which was a privately held digital health-care company seeking to automate routine hospital administrative tasks, was a Unicorn. And just a few years ago its valuation on paper reached $4 billion.

But as the world of healthcare and Wall Street now know, this Columbus “Unicorn” has gone extinct. The venture capitalists who flooded Olive AI with $1 billion in cash, such as Columbus’s Drive Capital LLC, are desperately trying to get something in return by selling off the remains.

What is disturbing is how venture capitalists saw Olive AI as the greatest of Unicorns. It was regarded as the healthcare IT company to receive the most venture capital funding ever. Exactly how much Wall Street cash Olive AI lost is unknown, some estimate it could be over $100 million.

Olive AI was launched just over a decade ago and claimed its AI-powered software could dramatically cut administrative costs for healthcare providers. This is also known as taking away jobs and having future plans to take more away more jobs.

So how did Olive AI fail so spectacularly?

Its CEO Sean Lane (pictured above) offered the typical industry speak for an explanation: shifts in the industry’s landscape, evolving customer expectations, and challenging market conditions.

Lane was heralded as a visionary. Now he’s a blowhard who oversold what his company could do. Columbus’s Reddit page is packed with complaints against him.

“We were told there wouldn’t be raises and we’d get a year-end bonus if we met our metric goals,” wrote one apparent former employee. “We not only met but exceeded the goals. Guess who didn’t get the bonus? It was companywide [leadership probably got theirs].”

Some believe there are far simpler and more profound reasons why this Unicorn went belly-up.

“These guys think they can do whatever want,” says local progressive activist Chuck Lynd about Olive AI and the Wall Street-fueled venture capitalists who backed them. “They are operating under the illusion that artificial intelligence is equivalent to what we do when we calculate in the brain, and that’s based on the idea we are separate from nature. It’s incredibly ignorant to bet on this because we don’t know what we are doing because we are part of nature and we’re just figuring this out.”

Lynd is also an environmentalist and a retired educator who worked with handicapped and special needs children. He also has another passion: promoting a vibrant and self-staining local economy.

In the early 1990s, Lynd was a founding board member of Columbus’s Simply Living, which has a mission that Wall Street doesn’t believe in. Keep money local instead of going to box stores or whatever else is owned by international global corporations.

“I’m definitely into the local economy, as opposed to the Wall Street economy, which is killing the planet. Business as usual,” he says.

For those who live in Linden and the Hilltop, the thought of $1 billion being handed to them to build something which stunningly fails would be unfathomable and downright laughable. But keep in mind, says Lynd, if you add up all the IRAs, savings accounts, mutual funds, there’s $30 trillion available for Wall Street to invest in.

“For the money guys, this is chump change. It’s nothing,” he says about Olive AI losing $100 million.

Lynd’s financial activism is mostly inspired from what he witnessed firsthand while growing up in Ironton, Ohio. His dad owned a book store and saw the “writing on the wall” as international global corporations (pushed by Wall Street) began muscling out locally-owned businesses.

On average, says Lynd, 50 percent of the economy is still locally owned, and 2/3rds of new jobs come from small businesses. But it varies across America. Most of the industrial heartland is believed to be only 35 percent local.

“What if 50 percent of that $30 trillion were invested locally?” asks Lynd.

Our schools would be state-of-the-art. Potholes a thing of the past. Local crime curbed with un-police state-like solutions.

“Every town in Ohio has been colonized by the global economy. These are international global corporations investing in the colonizing of local economies across the world,” he says.

True, Olive AI was part of Columbus, providing hundreds of jobs, but now gone from the community. A foreshadowing in some ways as AI is predicted to take away millions of jobs. The future for AI is surreally unpredictable – but for a select few, such as those investing billions into AI, the future is blindingly bright.

“Contrast that money that could have been spent better, and that’s a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the $30 trillion dollars for investment,” said Lynd. “As Elizabeth Warren points out, if you just tax Wall Street transactions by one percent we will have $765 billion to use effectively for programs at the federal level.”