Silicon Valley is a role model for entrepreneurship ecosystems around the world and it has many unique advantages that are hard to replicate
Silicon Valley has remained one of the most successful places for entrepreneurs. The culture, innovative mindset, investor pool, networking and lastly the University of Stanford play major roles in making this one of the most successful places in the world for entrepreneurs. Steve Jobs was from the Valley and Mark Zuckerberg moved Facebook from Harvard University to Silicon Valley in the initial years.
Pillar of entrepreneurship ecosystem
An entrepreneurship ecosystem is a network of players and relations that directly or indirectly support the creation and growth of new startups. The six pillars of an entrepreneurship ecosystem are: policy, finance, culture, support, human capital and markets.
There is no doubt that Stanford which is in Silicon Valley plays a major role similar to how the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) plays a major role in supporting Boston which is another successful entrepreneurship ecosystem. A study shows that Stanford alumni generate nearly $ 3 trillion in economic impact each year. That is about 4% of the world’s total GDP which is impacted by the alumni of one university. Stanford alumni have generated 5.4 million jobs.
At Silicon Valley companies the hiring process is different to most other companies in the world. People are not just hired out of universities for their grades but Silicon Valley companies have on campus recruiting where the candidates have to solve real life problems of companies to get hired. This gets creative and innovative people into these companies. Bringing such people into the companies helps the Valley companies to develop its leading edge.
Silicon Valley is the perfect place for networking. With a stream of talent coming out of Stanford University and other top universities, the Valley is well supplied with human capital and talent. With a history of producing successful startups which later become corporate giants, venture capitalists are attracted to the Valley. This makes it a perfect place for entrepreneurs to network and find talent as well as money to start their own businesses
Large companies like Walmart and Comcast have their new ventures in Silicon Valley. Even the government of Finland and Denmark have established incubators in the Valley to help their startups connect with the Silicon Valley network. With some of the largest corporations in the world like Apple, Google and Facebook having their headquarters in the Valley, this means not just entrepreneurs but the highly talented employees of these companies are also in the Valley.
Silicon Valley has a culture of being creative and trying new things out. In companies around the world, employees are careful to try something out of the box as a failure would drastically affect their careers. In Silicon Valley, a failure is considered an opportunity to learn from.
When employees deliver something that is less than perfect or does not work, they are used as an experience to learn from and this encourages these companies to work fast. This way they know how good an idea is at the beginning stage rather than spending time perfecting a product and later finding out it does not work. As innovation needs to happen fast in a fast changing world.
According to a study, only 20% of all global companies had an innovation strategy while in Silicon Valley, 90% of the companies have an innovation strategy. These statistics alone go on to prove why Silicon Valley has a huge advantage over the rest of the world. Innovation is key and they bring out some of the world’s most innovative companies like Apple and Google. Innovation is a must for companies in this age. In 1935, S&P companies’ lifespan was 90 years but in 2010 it was only 14 years. This is a scary message to the boards of large companies. Innovate or get disrupted is a clear message to entrepreneurs.
Scaling is a core strategy in almost all the companies in Silicon Valley. Many startups around the world start a business to become successful. In Silicon Valley it is not just to become successful but to rapidly scale. Silicon Valley has a lot of venture capital firms and VCs invest in startups that scale fast so they can make a quick return on their investments. The startups know that if they do not have a strategy for scaling, the VCs will invest in their competitors.
The overall culture plays an important role in making Silicon Valley innovative. A culture of free thinking and seeing failures as a learning opportunity help startups greatly. 54% of Silicon Valley companies say their innovation strategies are tightly aligned with their corporate strategies while only 14% globally say that showing the importance of aligning corporate strategy with an innovation strategy. In conclusion, Silicon Valley is a role model for entrepreneurship ecosystems around the world and it has many unique advantages that are hard to replicate. Silicon Valley will remain on top for a long time as long as it has these advantages.
(Talal Rafi is a Consultant having worked on projects and initiatives by the World Bank, ADB, USAID and Chatham House London and is a Director of Global Entrepreneurship Network Sri Lanka.)