On my last post on Social Entrepreneurship and Startups, I have mentioned Paul Graham's essay on how to be a Silicon Valley. In the post before that, Brain Drain or Brain Circulation, I have mentioned news.com's interview with Anna Lee Saxenian. I agree with her when she points out knowledge circulates with people. When people who have worked in Silicon Valley come back to their home towns and establish similar businesses, they carry the knowledge and business experience of Silicon Valley with them.
In this post I would like to combine my thoughts on these two topics and discuss how to create the right environment for startups and how to link to the heart of technology, Silicon Valley. This post will also shed a light on why we, Golden Horn Ventures, would like to build a bridge between Silicon Valley and Turkey.
For a knowledge / technology economy or innovation, the first and most important ingredient is people. People and their visions are crucial. People and their ability to dream and the passion to execute their dreams make all the difference. With dreams humanity have built and collapsed nations, have invented and built machines, sytems, medicine, etc. Dreams have brought us from homo sapiens to mankind of today.
As Paul Graham puts it in his essay:
"What it takes is the right people. If you could get the right ten thousand people to move from Silicon Valley to Buffalo, Buffalo would become Silicon Valley."
We can't move people from Silicon Valley to Turkey, however many people who got educated and worked in Silicon Valley end up back in their home towns in Turkey. They want to work and produce as they have done before. They are used to the ways of Silicon Valley; the openness (open organizations, open discussions, open software, open ideas, etc.), the competitiveness, the venture capital, the values (to 'dare' is valuable), the business rules and the business rituals. They are used to the ways of how to innovate as in Silicon Valley, get your product out there, release early, build business partnerships early, etc.
"I think you only need two kinds of people to create a technology hub: rich people and nerds. They're the limiting reagents in the reaction that produces startups, because they're the only ones present when startups get started. Everyone else will move."
Rich people and nerds. However, they both need to be more passionate in Turkey than they are in the US. In the US there are reference success stories. There are numbers that show that when you innovate, you succeed! In our case, the rich needs to believe in building a startup / technology economy and building a better future for all. The rich and the nerds both need to understand the global dynamics and the opportunities that lie under.
In developing countries, or in any place where there is not a startup / technology economy - where startups haven't become successful businesses and haven't generated wealth for the many- nerds end up with some work to sustain living such as fixing PCs. Eventually their ideas and their dreams die with every PC that they fix. That is why in places where there is no startup economy, the rich needs to have a clear vision of what future holds for those can innovate and those that can not and the opportunities that are waiting for those who can.
But how about the accumulated know-how, capital and talent? Just because we have 5 teams and 5 startups set up, Turkey wouldn't become the centre of technology and innovation. We need links and partnerships to the accumulated know-how, capital and talent. We need connections to the world of technology, Silicon Valley.
By connections and links, I mean people and partnerships. They will help how things get done, how technology is applied, how technology turns into a product and a business.
By the web, we all reach to information, blogs, codes, examples, theories, messages, discussions at the same time. But connections are needed to be a player, to get more of the accumulated information in the Silicon Valley case by case. With each project the teams will get smarter, understand it better, get the culture of the Silicon Valley in their DNA. Later this will accumulate in the form of know-how and talent. By every sucess story capital will add to the equation. As a snow ball, it will get bigger in every turn. Please note that for know-how and talent to accumulate 'openness' needs to be deep in the culture - open discussions and open organizations.
By the rich people and the links, the nerds will get an access to experience, capital, advise and connections.
It is the people and people only that will make the difference.
Another point that I want to quote in Paul Graham's essay is:
"A corollary is that you have to keep out the biggest developer of all: the government. A government that asks "How can we build a silicon valley?" has probably ensured failure by the way they framed the question. You don't build a silicon valley; you let one grow."
Nerds want to think free and act free! People with dreams could only be fed by other entrepreuners financially and business-wise! People who have dreams to change the world by production and innovation should be set free to do so and supported in an entrepreunerial way. In this way a healthy ecosystem will evolve for technology and innovation and startups.