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How to Build Many Silicon Valleys Around the World

When I woke up this morning to write this, I did not expect to come across an article that would dramatically alter this essay. But that is exactly what happened when I landed on Medium and read “Silicon Valley’s Unchecked Arrogance”.
There’s a lot of truth in what Ross Baird and Lenny Mendonca wrote. Some people in Silicon Valley do believe we are the center of the innovation world. While the argument in the article was compelling, the solution was unsatisfying.
My thesis, which forms the core of the essay I expected to write, is that we need to put the power of innovation into the hands of many more people around the world.
What Silicon Valley Is Not
Silicon Valley is a very unique place, but if you come to visit Silicon Valley for the first time, you will be confused. The buildings, stores and roads are like many other developed cities. Our Internet coverage isn’t even all that good if you are walking around Palo Alto, the birthplace of Stanford University, home to the first office of Paypal, Facebook, and countless startups.
So what explains the tremendous track record of companies being built in Silicon Valley?
The physical infrastructure of Silicon Valley is quite pedestrian. There are so many cities with better access to transportation, Internet, affordable housing, etc.
The real killer app of Silicon Valley is of course its people and the culture formed by those people. It’s not just raw technical and business talent that drives the innovation economy forward, its the pioneering attitude of creating a big company in the face of all odds.
Big Buildings, Bigger Problems
in 2009, Russia embarked on a massive $4 billion construction project called Skolkovo. It was to become a science park for 30,000 people to create new startups

Yet, just a few years later, the entire project was instead featured as a warning not an example in “The Short Life and Speedy Death of Russia’s Silicon Valley”.

Skolkovo was plagued with political and cultural problems. Corruption, brain drain and the reassertion of Vladimir Putin all contributed to its rapid demise. In the end it became a massive, impressive and rather empty park.

Build Humans, Not Buildings

The way to build many Silicon Valleys around the world will look a lot less like Skolkovo and much more like @Andela, led by Jeremy Johnson.
Andela trains talented and promising students on the Africa continent to become world class engineers. While these students are training and learning, they have the opportunity to work for large global technology companies who also pay for their services.
They also have the opportunity to work on their companies both in school and down the road, using the valuable skills and mindset they acquired at Andela.

The digital revolution may have begun in Silicon Valley, but its future will be written in cities across Africa.

Brilliance is evenly distributed; opportunity is not.

That is the way to solve problems that aren’t being solved by the very well to do Silicon Valley founders. We must bring more founders with different experiences into the global startup ecosystem.
Our collective mission, if we want to solve major global problems, is to distribute opportunity more broadly to every corner of the world.

October 8, 2016
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