During some recent travels, I started noticing the comments and suggestions that “being part of Silicon Valley must be exciting”. As I paid more attention, it came across as almost hero worship of Silicon Valley and the companies its has launched. It's like people believe that innovation outside Silicon Valley is a rare if not impossible occurrence.
I have to admit that when I first showed up in Silicon Valley in 1984, I was in awe. I felt that I had arrived and proven myself. It took me better than 4 years to open my eyes and see that it wasn't that unique or special. There are some advantages to being there but human creativity and innovations they create are not limited to small piece of land. There is innovation outside of Silicon Valley.
One unique characteristic to the valley is the access to billions of risk capital that people are willing to invest in new innovations. But risk capital is available in other places also. For example the State of Ohio Venture Fund which is helping new innovative companies stay in the state rather then feeling they need to go to the valley to be successful.
Innovation can come from anywhere such as the result Hurricane Katrina, a taxi drive in NYC working on new medical innovations and the solution to predictors killing livestock in Africa. While many of these innovations start out as solutions to immediate hyper local issues, they can and do turn into products and services that we all benefit from.
Remember that innovation does not equal technology. There are an unlimited number of ways to apply innovation to what you do.
How To Help
The challenge is how to help innovators who are outside of Silicon Valley to be successful while also impacting their local economy. Here are some ways we can all help:
- By highlighting what others are doing (e.g. social media) to give them some exposure.
- By shows what others are doing, reinforcing that anyone can innovate.
- By showing how to innovate (e.g. joining The Innovators Community), give others the skills to take their idea and turn it into a business.