By Deborah Perry Piscione
Deborah Perry Piscione is a Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur and the author of the upcoming book Secrets of Silicon Valley: What Everyone Can Learn from the Innovation Capital of the World (April 2, 2013, Palgrave Macmillan)
Can Silicon Valley's remarkable success be replicated? Is there any city, community or region that can possibly compete with its stunning record of innovation, creativity, and wealth generation? Could another place become a similar magnet for the world's most brilliant minds?
Take the case of Singularity University, a non-profit educational institution located at Moffitt Field in the heart of Silicon Valley.
Singularity's University's co-founders Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil have gathered top thinkers from many different disciplines and fields to forecast, analyze, and create the science and technology that will solve the world's biggest challenges in eight disciplines: education, energy, environment, food, global health, poverty, security and water.
In the view of these two men, entrepreneurship is the future of the world. Technologies that grow at an exponential rate will revolutionize our most basic interactions, how we work, learn, and design our lifestyles. These technologies will allow anyone - at any age, anytime, and anywhere in the world - to enter the entrepreneurial marketplace, create a personal brand or platform, and build things that not so long ago were extremely capital intensive and prohibitively expensive.
This is the global "startup revolution" sweeping the landscape of talent development and idea creation, a movement so widespread that it has the potential to redefine the foundational concept of business and work in the 21st Century.
This brings us back to our original question: Is it possible to replicate or compete with Silicon Valley?
Silicon Valley stands as a prime example that this century will not be defined by the classic notion of the nation state, but rather by the regionalization of cities as the hubs of economic development. Silicon Valley is always evolving, like an active volcano that erupts every few years with creative destruction that brings forth a new formulation of ideas, technologies, and commercialization.
"We are a bubble-based economy that continues to reinvent itself," says Doug Henton, chairman and CEO of Collaborative Economics.
As countries, states, and localities content with their bankrupt budgets and face the reality of their options for increasing tax revenues, regionalization will take on greater importance. The good news is that states and localities have decreased spending to a negative 2.7 percent, the biggest drop in three decades, according to a USA TODAY report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Regardless, regions will have to learn to diversify their economies a la Silicon Valley.
Peter Diamandis believes that Silicon Valley technologies will continue a path of billion dollar valuations overnight while traditional multinational corporations, relics of the industrial age, will continue to go out of business over the next 2-10 years. Perhaps the greatest lesson for business is that it is more important for all companies with a global reach to maintain an office in Silicon Valley than Washington or New York.
At the micro level, the region is not only responsible for creating the disruptive and innovative technologies that we can't seem to live without, but also will continue to inspire innovative new business models that will be less capital intensive. What is the secret to this type of economy? You have to have the right culture of people, who are risk tolerant, constantly adapting, and don't enjoy being sedentary. It is a place where people trust one another to cross-pollinate and strengthen their idea's commercial viability. It is easy to attract the brightest of talent in Silicon Valley because of the high-value-added work that is offered here. "It is a hell of a trampoline for those serial entrepreneurs who are ingratiated into the ecosystem," says Doug Henton. If you fail at one thing, you just jump to the next idea.
This is what makes Silicon Valley so tough to compete with. It's an ecosystem with many parts that nurture one another.. Bill Miller, the former provost of Stanford, likes to call it a "habitat" because it is not just about invention but also about the people who can help commercialize an idea. Bill talks about that habitat as not just containing the seeds, but the soil as well. The first computer was created at the University of Pennsylvania and the first semiconductor was invented at Bell Labs in New Jersey, yet neither one was commercialized there. All that happened in Silicon Valley.
Technology is both heating up our world and vaporizing it. Because of the pace of exponential technologies in today's market, unless you can create and commercialize your idea overnight, you will literally be out of business by the time you go to market.
Most of the world lets Silicon Valley lead and then replicates its ideas, saturates the market, and fizzles until the next wave of innovation appears. This is why today's disruptive entrepreneurs and visionaries need to be thinking about technology 5-10 years out. It is as simple as that.
At the core of Silicon Valley's secret to its success is a culture that is open, nurturing, thrives at risk-taking and comfortable with failure. These are just a few of the characteristics that I define as Silicon Valley's ecosystem, an ecosystem that rarely asks, "Who do you work for?" but rather, "What's your passion?
In the research for my upcoming book, I was fortunate to spend time with the teachers, students and executives at Singularity University. My friend Vivek Wadhwa, who serves as Singularity U's VP of Innovation, warned me before I participated in their executive program, "Deborah, it is going to change your thinking." After a week, my response was, "It didn't just change my thinking; it changed my life."
This material published courtesy of Singularity University.
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