Can Eric Schmidt and Web Entrepreneurs Save the Economy?

Here at the Allen & Co conference in Sun Valley, the economy is CEOs top concern.

Each of the executives we've spoken to this weekhas expressed some concern about the economy or deficit.

But three big thinkers in the web space — Google's Eric Schmidt, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, and venture investor Marc Andreesen — are taking a different, more pro-active approach to the issues.

It makes sense that these three men, used to searching for entrepreneurial opportunities, are also looking outside the box in this economic situation, while traditional media CEOs are waiting for the impact of financial regulation and pending tax changes.

Eric Schmidt
Eric Schmidt

On the looming deficit, Google's Schmidt says we're on a "debt binge," which will cripple the nation in a decade.

After the deficit Schmidt's biggest concern is how to make America a great manufacturing and technology innovation country.

Schmidt likes to cite the fact that there are now more Americans working in healthcare than in manufacturing.

Schmidt is taking action to address these concerns, working on a plan for the Obama administration to jumpstart innovation and lower employment. He wouldn't go into details of his plan, but says that the government needs a program that will create "large net new employment gains" and new industries and businesses. Schmidt says his plan would reach beyond his normal domain of the web and technology; I'm curious to see the details.

Reid Hoffman
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Reid Hoffman

Reid Hoffman, a serial entrepreneur with a slew of social media companies in his investment portfolio, from LinkedIn and Facebook to Zynga, has a different strategy.

He thinks the key way to address America's weak economy is to stimulate entrepreneurial activity.

Hoffman is calling for serious incentives for small businesses, saying the government is not doing enough.

Hoffman voiced harsh criticism of immigration policy, saying that immigration should be used to stimulate economic growth.

I've never heard Hoffman so frustrated.

He pointed to the fact that educated immigrants, engineers with PhDs, face huge roadblocks to gaining citizenship. And as a result, he argues that our nation built on immigrants is turning away innovators who could create the next web giant and generate a huge amount of economic activity.

Hoffman says he wrote up these ideas and sent them to the White House, but hasn't gotten a response.

Frustrated, he wrote an editorial for the Washington Post.

Marc Andreessen
Marc Andreessen

Marc Andreessen is by far the most optimistic person I've spoken to here in Sun Valley this year: he sees opportunity everywhere.

His venture fund "Andreessen Horowitz" recently invested in the location-based social service Foursquare, and has a handful of investments in the works that it's getting ready to announce.

Andreessen sees huge potential in building companies around the thriving social web and he says, a weak economy isn't having any negative impact on that. Cash-strapped consumers will give up many other things before they'll sacrifice their broadband connection, so he's confident his investments will stand the test of any economy.

SLIDESHOW—Sun Valley Media Moguls & Power Players

More Notes from Sun Valley:

More from Schmidt including:

Questions? Comments?