I’ve spent the last few years meeting entrepreneurs from around the globe. I’ve been to conferences like Web Summit, White Bull, and many meet-ups across the US and Europe. There’s lots of talent and ideas outside of Silicon Valley, which is probably no surprise to anyone who lives outside the Bay Area. However, many VCs and investors tend to keep their dollars in this region. Of course, there are some large VC firms with overseas presence, but the majority keep their dollars in the Bay Area. Perhaps it’s time we widened our scope because the tech disruption isn’t going to be limited to Silicon Valley.
It’s true that the reason VCs are focused on entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley or those who are willing to move to Silicon Valley is because of the vast resources and networks here. While other cities and countries have tried to duplicate the Silicon Valley mentality and culture, no one has succeeded yet.
Perhaps it’s because San Francisco and the Bay Area has a history or risk-taking on crazy ventures. From the Barbary Coast to the Gold Rush to a computer industry founded in garages, the Bay Area has always defied convention socially and in business.
The disparity in funding risks between Silicon Valley and European VCs is another good example. Two million is a seed round of funding in Silicon Valley, while that’s at least an A round of funding in Europe, if not a B round. And for better or worse, Silicon Valley VCs are more likely to keep investing in a company to help them pivot if the first idea doesn’t work, whereas European VCs are much more conservative on that front.
Having completed the Neal’s Running Start program for entrepreneurs outside the US earlier this year, I saw first-hand how entrepreneurs can flourish with the right guidance and network. Neal’s Running Start took four entrepreneurs from outside the country and brought them here for just thirty days. I was amazed at how these eager minds transformed completely in such a short amount of time. What would happen if they had consistent access to Silicon Valley without the costs of moving to Silicon Valley?
Over the next year, I’m going to focus on learning about and talking about methods to make tech innovation more inclusive for everyone. We have massive industrial shifts happening across the globe. The World Economic Forum’s report on Deep Shifts: Technological Tipping Points make it clear how technology will completely disrupt social and economic systems in the next 15-20 years. That means we have to be thinking and innovating not just in Silicon Valley, but across the globe if we want to be prepared for changes in major industries and social and ethical dilemmas.
These shifts will give cities across the US and the globe the opportunity to be the new centers of innovation on a variety of technological advancements, from transportation to AI to big data and privacy issues.
I want to be part of helping smaller cities that may not be on the VC firm radar, meet their innovation potential. I want to help entrepreneurs, educators and city officials make these shifts. I’d welcome your input as I evolve my thinking and research on this topic. I hope to foster open discussions at conferences, universities and municipalities looking to lead the way for these coming changes. If you see me at a conference, strike up a conversation. I’d be happy to hear your viewpoint. And if you’d like to host a discussion, drop me a line as I’ll be planning various speaking and meet-up possibilities.
Look for more on this page, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and input as we look to grow the Silicon Valley ecosystem beyond the Bay Area.