The Secret Sauce of Silicon Valley

Much has been written about Silicon Valley as the hotbed of technical innovation. The location of two of the best universities in the world are part of Silicon Valley's success as are the research facilities of aerospace companies, NASA and the military. Also the weather plays its role.

After six months living and working in Silicon Valley I found three other ingredients of the Secret Sauce making Silicon Valley so successful and unique.

Passion, not Money

The young entrepreneurs and people working in start-ups I met here are not here because of the money. They do not dream to make millions of dollars and become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs – with respects to their fortunes.

Coming here means for most of them giving up a lot of their living quality. They are sharing apartments again, even rooms. Their living standard is much more comparable to their student days than to what young professionals are used to.

They all work here because they follow their passion. They feel, that they can have an impact, that they can change the world. They also enjoy the freedom to create far away from any corporate politics or red tape.

It’s the Angel, not the Rotary Club

Even the people who made a lot of money in IPOs or exits live very differently than you would expect. Sure, they have nice houses, which count for a lot in the insanely expensive real estate market. They drive normal cars. They enjoy holiday similar to people who have a good job. I have almost never seen any extravagance which all of them could easily afford.

Instead, they are hooked on start-ups. They want to get their hands dirty in the next start-up. They invest in them. They support them. They connect the entrepreneurs with people in their network.

What counts in Silicon Valley is the membership in one of the Angel Clubs and being and active part in it. They meet often weekly, sometimes monthly. They look at new start-up ideas, see entrepreneurs, and discuss their current investments and how to move them forward.

Paying Forward

The last ingredient was the most difficult for me to find out and to understand. It is the principle of paying forward. Yes, you might have seen the movie with the title “Paying Forward”.

The principle is simple. I give you something – money, advise, support, whatever – and I do not expect you to pay me back. Instead I expect you, when you are successful to pay forward, to support people in similar situations you were in. Instead of an interest you pay forward to more than one person.

It is an amazing and powerful principle that could be applied to many areas of our lives and to our society. It is a principle that can change the world. It is one of the principles really driving the success of Silicon Valley.

When Europe looks at Silicon Valley in awe with the urge to copy it, policy makers are well advised to keep these three ingredients of the secret sauce in mind.

I am grateful to Advantage Austria, the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, which enabled me to come here and experience this unique environment.

The secret sauce photo was made available to us by Valdonica, the Winery and Vineyard Residence in Tuscany.

Bernhard is the founder of HELLO STAGE. He is probably the first opera singer pitching an Internet start-up in Silicon Valley. Before founding HELLO STAGE in Fall 2013, Bernhard was the CEO and Artistic Director of the Wiener Konzerthaus. He held several C-Level positions in European technology companies with EUR 100+ million turnover. See www.bernhardkerres.com.

Bernhard leads HELLO STAGE from Silicon Valley. He has his office at Runway in the Twitter Building in San Francisco. He writes about his experience in the innovation hot bed on this blog.
Author: Bernhard Kerres
Comments [1]
Kosmas Lapatas - 2015-09-11 11:03
This article is a true revelation. Work ethic at its best!
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