So yesterday I took a couple hours out of what’s been a massive workload to shoot over to the Grandover Resort in Greensboro for the Raleigh Chamber’s Summer Leadership Conference. I sat on a panel to talk about innovation (I’m for it, by the way) with Raleigh City Councilperson/Innovate Raleigh board member Mary Ann Baldwin and Bull City Forward founder/Hub Raleigh co-founder Christopher Gergen. The moderator was Tom Rabon, formerly of Red Hat and now with startup New Kind.

The topic assigned to me was the future of innovation as it pertains to entrepreneurs. So this is some of what I said yesterday, prettied up and without any f-bombs.

I’m kidding. There was only one f-bomb yesterday.

Having put in consistent 16-hour days over the last two weeks, I had zero time to prepare. In fact, I pretty much got everything together on the drive from Durham. And what I kept coming back to was a line I wrote a few articles ago talking about the purpose of ExitEvent.

I started ExitEvent, started the Social and the network and the online features and the content, because this whole thing where people are becoming entrepreneurs and starting their own companies — this isn’t a fad, it’s progress.

This is true not only of Raleigh or Durham, but insert just about any major or minor city you want into that equation. Except maybe those around Silicon Valley, where they just start companies when they step out of the shower each morning. I don’t think what we’re seeing, nationwide, is a startup bubble. And I don’t think this wave of early stage companies, be it made up of high-tech and high-growth robot writer gamechangers or food trucks and breweries, is going away any time soon,

Nor do I think this phenomenon is necessarily a by-product of the recession. But I definitely think the recession had a huge slingshot effect.

So that’s where we’ll start.

Unlike the dot-com bust in 2001/2002, we’re not seeing this huge exodus back into the surviving startup companies: the Googles, the Yahoos, even the Microsofts and Apples. That’s not happening for a couple of reasons. The jobs aren’t there, for one, as the 8-point-whatever unemployment rate certainly points to.

But the main reason, at the least the one I hear all the time, is beyond disillusionment, it’s resolution. I believe, at this point, the smart people, especially the smart young people, are far more comfortable putting their future in their own hands.

Just like when I was first starting out and my generation heard – “It’s not like it used to be. In my day, you graduated, got a job, stayed there for 30 years and retired.” — I don’t know anyone roughly my age who has been at the same company their entire career. Hell, I don’t know too many who have stayed within a single industry. What we’re seeing now is a further evolution of that same concept.

And it’s accelerating.

Entrepreneurs aren’t starting companies because it’s the cool thing to do. Entrepreneurs aren’t starting companies because it’s the only thing left to do. They’re starting companies, the smart ones anyway, because it’s the right thing to do.

And this is the future of innovation as it applies to startups. Turns out the future is startups.