What makes Silicon Valley successful?

by Heath Dewey on November 3rd, 2011

We must thank the forward thinking Stanford University that leased out much of Leland Stanford’s original farm to develop a technology park. Perhaps that act was the original example of innovative thinking that spawned the dynamic Silicon Valley movement. The companies that occupied that original park helped to create a unique culture of innovation and competition. Thousands of companies like Apple, HP and Sun were born from the melting pot of ideas, cultures and desires that then and now characterized Silicon Valley.

In an article by Vivek Wadhwa in the Washington Post, the success of ethnic Indian entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley is highlighted. According to the article, ethnic Indians founded 7 percent of companies in Silicon Valley between 1980 and 1998 and 15.5 percent of the companies from 1995 to 2005. This happened despite the fact that, according to the 2000 census, less than 6 percent of the Silicon Valley workforce was Indian born.

Vivek attributes this success to "mastering the Valley's rules of engagement." According to Vivek this meant that they formed mentoring networks and started helping each other navigate the competitive business environment.

Kapoks acknowledge mentoring and networking as essential to the success of entrepreneurs in any community. Silicon Valley is admittedly more competitive than most communities, which highlights the importance of networking and mentoring in every community.

Two Keys to Entrepreneurial Success:

A mentor must be trustworthy, knowledgeable, experienced and accessible. Mentors should provide insight but also empower entrepreneurs to make decisions on their own.

Kapoks supports entrepreneurs all over the world by encouraging the placement of Enterprise Facilitators. Enterprise Facilitators are trained to work as mentors to entrepreneurs. They support entrepreneurs by empowering them to make informed business decisions. They understand local culture and customs and speak the local language. Trust and a rapport with the community is easily developed by enterprise facilitators that share similar backgrounds with members of the community they serve.

An extensive yet trustworthy network of professionals is invaluable to the success of entrepreneurs. A network should connect entrepreneurs to resources or perspectives otherwise unavailable without imparting judgment. After all, innovation is the mother of invention and if it were obvious to everyone it would already have been invented. Would a good network have mocked AJ Hackett’s commercialization of the bungee or applauded its his creativity? Ariana Huffington, in a blog post for the Acumen Fund, recently called her personal network a “fearlessness tribe.” She describes them as, “Women who will always be in our corner, always there for us, whether we succeed or fail. Your tribe is there to give you honest feedback and to support you when the going gets tough…and, just as importantly, to help you celebrate the good times.” That sounds like the kind of tribe that could help any entrepreneur succeed.

Kapoks’ Enterprise Facilitators support entrepreneurs through community networking in “Partners For Growth”. “Partners For Growth” includes a voluntary, multi-stakeholder resource board composed of influential community members. The goal of the resource board is to provide the Enterprise Facilitator with contacts (i.e. resources) that she/he can access to assist entrepreneurs in forging new ground.

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