How To Build Our Own Silicon Valley



FROM 2010 to this year, venture capitalists invested $168billion in firms in the Bay Area which accounts for almost a third of the total investments in America.

Three of the world’s five most valuable companies are in the Silicon Valley: Apple, Alphabet (Google’s parent) and Facebook. They are valued at $2.5trillion. Silicon Valley hosts 57 unicorns—private startups valued at more than $1billion—including household names like Airbnb and Uber.

Silicon Valley has its unique DNA

The Valley is just a melting pot for infrastructure, funding, diverse talent and an environment that celebrates risk takers. The presence of Stanford University is a vital element of the Valley’s DNA. The Stanford Business School’s alumni ranges from founders of some of the biggest and most innovative companies of the world, to venture capitalists, leaders in government, media, research and everything in between. You can find everyone from a designer to a product manager in the neighbourhood.

The mentors are skill builders

But the biggest secret sauce of the Valley is the network of successful entrepreneurs who give back to the startups.

The culture of spending time helping a startup from finding capital to working space has been a hallmark of the successful entrepreneurs. They teach at Stanford. They interact with students and invite academics to challenge their business models. The cafes, bars and meeting spaces are buzzing with conversations where ideas are taking shape.

The case of Shiwani

Shiwani is 20 years old and a dreamer. She comes from a small town in the outskirts of Karnal. Her father is a carpenter and mother a tailor. Her younger sister is a diploma student and their youngest sibling is in the 4th standard in the local school. Shiwani calls herself a Medha alumni.

She was, like any other student, studying for her Bachelors Degree in Commerce when her professor told her about the bootcamp on soft skills being run by Medha, an NGO that works towards building employability in the youth. What made her sign up for the class with Medha, I ask Shiwani.

Shiwani, one of Medha’s alumni.

“I was very unsure of myself and lacked the confidence to speak before others,” she answers confidently. Medha organised placement chaupals for the students.

Shiwani now works for the Varitra Foundation and says that she owes her confidence to the time Medha volunteers spent in grooming her.

Chris Turrillo, an alumnus of Chicago Booth has been working with his friend Byomkesh to expand the footprint of Medha. In January 2011 they moved to Lucknow.

They boast of 8,000 alumni who now work with almost 500 employers. Their team of 80 works with students from almost 60 educational systems.

Three stage model

Medha works in the first stage to build the self-confidence of students. This is done by helping them build their soft skills like public speaking, working in teams, negotiating and influencing others. These are all vital skills that every employer looks for. The next phase is where Medha builds the digital literacy among the students. In the final stage, the Medha volunteers coach the students on how to appear for job interviews, how to write a resume and also help them find internships.

They run a programme called Rubaru (meaning face-to-face) in which they take 25-30 students to cities like Agra, Delhi, and Mumbai to meet potential employers.

In the trips to Delhi the students met hiring managers from Microsoft. In the Mumbai trip, the students met senior executives of Unilever and BankAm.

The ATM example

Technology is creating new business models. It is also creating opportunities for jobs which stress working and collaborating in teams, being able to build networks to get things done. And the creativity to reinvent oneself time and time again.

People often quote the ATM example to say that when ATMs came up, the number of tellers employed by banks increased. The conclusion being pushed is that we do not need to worry, there will be plenty of job opportunities even as robots take away so many jobs. This is a dangerous myth to fall for.

When self-driving cars become mainstream, they will take away the jobs of drivers (for the most part) and will create jobs for designers, expert coders, creative artists, etc. All these jobs will need people with deep skills. They will need domain experts, people with deep digital skills and plenty of soft skills. Without that the demographic dividend will be a time bomb.

What Medha is doing needs to be replicated at scale. We need to see more Shiwanis who inspire others to chase their dreams.

Abhijit Bhaduri is currently running a fundraiser to help 20 disadvantaged graduates find careers. To show your support, click here.

Abhijit Bhaduri is an author, keynote speaker and a talent management and leadership coach to senior business leaders. From technology, healthcare, consumer goods, manufacturing, food and pharmaceuticals, he works with a range of companies from startups to large global multinationals who employ more than 150,000 employees. His book The Digital Tsunami is a must read for leaders who are driving digital transformation in their business.

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