This post was inspired by the book Secrets Of Silicon Valley by Deborah Perry Piscione.
Silicon Valley (SV) is the Holy Grail of the startup world. The biggest companies, Initial Public Offerings (IPOs), and entrepreneurs come out of this moderate-sized town in California. How can one city have such a vast and incredible track record of success?
There are a few things that help contribute to Silicon Valley's success. This is not an exhaustive list, just a few things that I believe applies to the startup community developing in Southern Africa.
Open door policy. In Silicon Valley (SV), community and togetherness is fostered. It's said that when you get to town, people are helpful and will often ask, "What do you do? Who do you want to meet?" Then they actually follow-through on it and get you introductions and connections to the best relationships, investors, developers (no matter their net worth or status). You need access, it's there. They openly grant it.
Ideas freely flow. Africa often struggles with allowing their ideas to grow organically and naturally—spreading ideas freely, because we are so afraid that it will be stolen or copied. It's often said that if you started a lemonade stand on one street corner in Africa, the next morning there would be three knock-off stands on the other corners. Competition truly is a cancer in Africa. SV fosters idea creation and idea nurturing better than any community in the world. Ideas grow here, they don't die.
Positive view on failure. In SV, people view failure as a necessary means to success. It's encouraged to give your best with failure being a viable option. It's understood. So when a startup fails, investors quickly move on, relationships continue, and entrepreneurs come up with better and brighter ideas (learning from their previous failure). Failure is welcomed to the dinner table and treated with respect.
Big thinking is a requirement. Stanford Industrial Park (Stanford University's research division) asks their students the question, "What will you create to impact 1 billion people?" This is coupled with an intense desire to learn and create better processes, products, and industries. Dreaming is something I believe everyone should do on a daily basis. Does your dream scare you? In SV, it better, otherwise it's not worth pursuing.
Capital is a means to an end. Billions of dollars flow in the Valley, yet this cash is viewed as a tool to empower creativity, ingenuity, and invention. The capital is not handed out freely, but it's an expected part of SV culture that you give back (both charitably and philanthropically) and you sustain and continue to foster entrepreneurial and capitalistic development into the next generation.
Replications Of Silicon Valley Worldwide
Many regions and nations have tried to replicate Silicon Valley's success. We now have cities like Austin, Texas (nicknamed Silicon Hills), Kansas City (Silicon Prairie), the nation of Israel (Silicon Wadi), Berlin, Germany (Silicon Allee), London (Silicon Roundabout), Bangalore, India (Silicon Plateau), and even Kenya (Silicon Savannah).
In Sub-Saharan Africa, we should try and replicate SV in many ways, especially when it relates to the culture of idea flow. Africa must foster community and enable the brightest minds to access the capital resources and mentorship of the titans of the previous generation.
Failure must become an option with investment in Africa from the standpoint that we use the capital to provide accountability to the entrepreneur, but still have the understanding that the startup community in Southern Africa will take time to develop. We strongly believe this development must start with the education of entrepreneurs, then eventually scaling into the expansion of future IPOs, and the acceleration of mid-stage startups into the local African markets.
It'll take a decade or so, but that's the direction Africa is heading. As the startup community gains momentum, what will Zimbabwe's startup nickname be? The Silicon Breadbasket? Or maybe Silicon Chikomo...
Leave your ideas in the comments.
(photo via wonderlane)
Posted on June 18, 2013
by Tim & Tommy filed under