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Learning from Silicon Valley

I’ve just returned from a week in Silicon Valley. As always, I get a lot of inspiration from the way things work and happen in the Valley. It’s appropriate then, that on the day I returned to London, I read an article entitled, “European Startups Need To Get A Valley Education, And Fast” by Julia K Szopa in TechCrunch. While I agree with her article, here’s my own perspective on what works and why.

The main reason for travelling out to Silicon Valley was to attend TiECon 2012 – the annual conference of Indian entrepreneurs from around the world. Here we heard some great keynotes from prominent Indian entrepreneurs in the USA. The two that stood out for me were those by Anant Agarwal, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT and director of CSAIL, computer science and artificial intelligence laboratory, with his keynote on organic computing; and Sam Pitroda, adviser to the Indian Prime Minister for public information infrastructure & innovations, who talked about ‘Igniting Innovation in India’.

After the conference, I took the opportunity to meet with a variety of people from start-ups, investors, incubators, and the large tech companies in the Valley.

Stanford Univesity, at the heart of Silicon Valley

The key thing that strikes anyone visiting Silicon Valley is the connectedness and closeness of people – everyone seems to be connected in some way – whether it’s engineers, entrepreneurs, VCs or universities; and it’s easy to get from one place to another (apart from when you are stuck in traffic on the 101 or when the President of the USA comes to the area as he did on my last day as I was leaving for the airport).  Driving from Santa Clara to most places where my meetings were, whether it was Palo Alto or Sunnyvale, or San Jose, I only spent a maximum of 20-25 minutes to reach my destinations. This is one part of the secret of being able to do business easily and this is part of the reason cities and regions around the world try to imitate the ‘cluster’ effect in their own locale.

This proximity puts together a melting pot of ideas, talent, and money and enables them to interact constantly.

But there is much more than just the melting pot. What I notice every time I visit the Valley is a willingness to share ideas and help each other too. When you meet with someone in the Valley, if they can’t help you, they will find someone else who can and introduce you to them.  There is a strong ‘can-do’ attitude as well as the typically American ‘How can I help you?’ atmosphere. On many occasions, while explaining the mission of our publication, ‘The Next Silicon Valley’, there was often a willingness to introduce me to others who might benefit from meeting us. This is not just because we are a magazine. I’ve experienced this over the last 17 years of visiting the Valley, and especially when I was building ARC International’s presence in the USA back in 1998.

The other key ingredient is the access to people. In Europe and Asia (Asia in particular), there’s often a hierarchy which makes it difficult to easily access key decision makers. That’s not the same in Silicon Valley. From CEOs and investors to university researchers and professors, most are easily accessible and willing to give you their ear or their wisdom/knowledge.

I am of course over-simplifying for the sake of illustrating my experiences in Silicon Valley. Much of the detail is written in many books, including the Rainforest book which I referred to in my last editorial.  What’s key though is that a visit to Silicon Valley does spark ideas for how elements of its success can be applied to other regions. The Next Silicon Valley is pleased to be working with the Global Innovation Summit taking place in San Jose, California (16-18 July 2012), as a media partner. Visiting the summit could be an opportunity for you to make a visit to Silicon Valley yourself to find out more about the region and to learn from other expert thinkers in this field. For more information, visit the Global Innovation Summit web site, or email me at The Next Silicon Valley (nitin[at]thenextsiliconvalley[dot]com) if you’d like to participate or raise your profile there.

Before that, we are of course looking forward to meeting you in Estonia at the IASP 2012 conference of the International Association of Science Parks, taking place between 17-20 June 2012. We will have a presence and also be presenting a paper. For more information, click here for the IASP 2012 conference details.

Nitin Dahad, CEO & Publisher, The Next Silicon Valley

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