The World Doesn't Need Another Silicon Valley
Last week, I shared the first part of my interview with TechStars' U.K. managing director Jon Bradford in which he explained how entrepreneurs should think more like athletes, envisioning success and their every move.
The interview was conducted last month in Kiev, Ukraine during the IDCEE conference, which I happened to keynote. When Bradford wrapped up his own talk, I asked for his thoughts on global entrepreneurship and where Silicon Valley is headed. Here, in the second part of our interview, Bradford explains why there are actually more advantages to not being a Silicon Valley-based start-up and why the world doesn't need another tech hub just like it.
We've discussed a few of the cultural, financial and resource challenges facing entrepreneurs worldwide. What are the advantages to not being based in Silicon Valley?
I guess the first advantage is competition. When you're competing for talent in the Valley, it can be incredibly competitive. If you're a start-up with traction outside the Valley, it's easier to be the biggest fish in the pond. Once you get some momentum, it will be much easier to build and retain your team.
Are there certain industries in other parts of the world that are better for start-ups?
Some sectors tend to gravitate to where the titans of the industry are. For a financial services start-up, New York and London may be a better location. A lot of great gaming companies come out of Europe. There have been several media and radio start-ups out of Europe, which I suspect is due to the major labels having less of a stronghold on the traditional market. The licensing agreement Spotify was able to negotiate in Sweden would likely have been dead on arrival in the U.S.
A really interesting company is iptvbeat, which provides analytics for digital TV. They have been able to integrate and collect data from Eastern European cable TV companies in a way that would have been nearly impossible for a U.S. start-up to do with Comcast or Verizon. But now that they have traction and have proven their model, they will be able to expand into larger markets. Approaching Comcast is a little easier once you've dominated Europe.
Earlier you've mentioned the race for top talent. How are start-ups building their teams?
Distributed teams are on the rise as companies look for new ways to hire the talent they need and add skills that are hard to find locally. TechStars believes you should be able to build your business from wherever you are rather than needing to move to London or Silicon Valley.
Tel Aviv is an interesting market for start-ups. Because of the Israeli military service requirements, entrepreneurs tend to be older and many have families already. They want to start companies, but don't want to move their families to do it. They may establish offices in the U.S. or London, but they'll build distributed teams that allow them to stay rooted in Tel Aviv, while bridging the resources they need around the world.
What's next for start-ups? Is a new Silicon Valley on the horizon?
The world doesn't need another Silicon Valley. The world needs more bridges. We've seen all of the U.S. start-up hubs evolve--New York, Boston, Austin, Boulder, Chicago--and I'm seeing the same thing happen globally. There is only one Silicon Valley and I don't think there will ever be another place like it. The good news is we don't need one, we just need more ways to connect to it.
The model that will develop is similar to the Internet, with regional nodes driving the global expansion of startups and entrepreneurship. Some nodes will be stronger than others, and they may be strong in different things--certain industries, skill sets or business models. If one node goes down due to the economy or politics, traffic will shift through another node or several other nodes. This is great news for the global start-up ecosystem, as it will become more efficient and resilient over time.