Why Silicon Valley Needs to Open Its Eyes

Christina Chaplin Beyond Borders


So much of the startup and entrepreneur scene is about building up your network and connecting with people. It's the people you know that make your ideas possible, but how wide are you extending your net? Think outside the box and outside your borders.

I'm trying to do just that while here in San Francisco. The San Francisco Bay Area in general is, by many, considered the Mecca of entrepreneurship and startups. At every corner you’ll find at least a dozen entrepreneurs on any given morning getting their skim, pumpkin latte’s before heading off to their respective co-working spaces.

20131105 lightbulb handIt seems everyone here is starting a company, and everyone talks about how this is an ecosystem that connects top research from institutions like Stanford and Berkeley, leading technology talent, and disruptive companies and technologies that make for a unique mix that feeds off itself. However research, talent and pioneering companies are not unique to only this area. The San Francisco Bay Area is unique for one key reason – the money available here for investing in startups. According to Jones Lang LaSalle, major venture spending in San Francisco and Silicon Valley combined was $1.486 billion in 2012. In this US the next largest concentration of investment is New York with $732 million.

This makes San Francisco a not only an environment ready to give birth to the best and the brightest ideas, people and companies, but it also means that the money is there to fuel those great ideas that do emerge. However, in my opinion this seemingly ideal entrepreneurial ecosystem is flawed… it forgets that there’s a whole world out there, full of bright and promising idea and nascent companies. Entrepreneurs and startups here spend a lot of time talking about how they want to change the world, but are not really looking beyond their backyard to ask what is already trying to be done in the rest of the world to improve people’s lives.

For the past few weeks the Spain Tech Center has been organizing various visits and talks with entrepreneurs, VCs, and other seasoned professionals in the Bay Area startup and tech scene as part of the accelerator program I’m currently participating in. Only a few have even asked the program participants about the kinds of things they are seeing and experiencing in their home countries. The focus is 100% on how, in this case, more Spanish companies can come to the Bay Area, implant here and plug into the scene.

There are some great things that come from being here, the extensive people networks, helping and collaborative culture, the enthusiasm, excitement and passion that so many people exude when they talk about their current projects. At most I’ve heard that the low labor costs in Spain are an asset, much in the way people talk about outsourcing their developers to Pakistan or India, but why does Silicon Valley seem to only think of the rest of the world as cheap labor and not potential sources of ideas, creativity and new solutions.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could convince more entrepreneurs here to reach out and connect with all those other great entrepreneurs with fantastic ideas and new perspectives to some of those big problems we’re all trying to fix around the world? We might realize that we haven’t found solutions to some of those problems yet here, but others may have already made progress elsewhere. Maybe we just have to stop staring at our own navels and look up and see that we don’t have all the answers.

Quenby Wilcox

Quenby Wilcox

Founder , Global Expats |

Great article Christina. Unfortunately, egocentricity is alive and well in the USA - as much in the political sphere in DC as in Silicon Valley. And, if the USA doesn't 'wake up and smell the coffee' soon they will be 'left in the dust' as other economies develop and become the new 'Golden boys - and Golden girls' of the 21st century.