Silicon Valley small business startups need more marketing and of course, more money.
In my extensive travels coaching small business startups around the globe, everybody wants to be “the next Silicon Valley,” which is both a noble aspiration and a near-impossible dream.
Silicon Valley and its zillions of successes make it near impossible to catch. Worse, the catalyst that gave birth to the valley is one that nobody should want…World War II. Back then, Stanford Engineering provost Frederick Terman literally kicked all the PhD’s out of the classroom to help electronics companies build technologies to help win the war.
Terman’s start fostered thousands of great companies and made the Valley what it is today.
What keeps the rest of the world from imitating or “catching” the Valley? In my travels, I see a consistent pattern: not enough mentors, immature marketing talent, and—of course—far too few investors willing to risk their money on early stage small business companies.
In my view, is the biggest challenge I’ve seen, from Bulgaria to Bogota, from Moscow to Milan.
There are far too few startup founders and successes serving as role models. It’s hard to walk down University Avenue in Palo Alto, for example, without literally bumping into a handful of successful founders or early employees who’ve enjoyed the thrills, rewards, and learning that comes with building a great company.
Startup founders, regardless of age, can’t possibly know enough to turn even a great product idea into a successful, sustainable company.
Nobody told this story better than Steve Jobs himself, who at age 13 simply looked up Bill Hewlett’s home number in the Palo Alto phone book and reportedly got back scores of hours of mentoring—and more—with no compensation or equity…just by asking for wisdom from a highly-qualified mentor.
Quoting Jobs, the famous Walter Isaacson biography says, “…and he picked up the phone, and I talked to him and I asked him if he’d give me some spare parts for something I was building….and he did. But in addition to that, he gave me something way more important, he gave me a job that summer … at Hewlett-Packard.”
There aren’t enough Bill Hewlett’s in the world to provide coaching, guidance and experience, whether for compensation or not.
And far too many of the coaches and “mentors” I’ve met are either peddling consulting services, looking for dirt-cheap startup deals, or just want to tell stories of how they built their somewhat irrelevant old world businesses. The most successful startup folks in emerging markets are just too darn busy building their companies, and don’t have the time or inclination to “pay it forward” to the next generation.
Great startup mentors like Apple’s Bill Campbell, Broadvision’s Pehong Chen, and my co-author Steve Blank, are generous, treasured resources in the Valley.
The rest of the startup world needs more of them, should cherish and applaud them, and—if all else fails—should motivate them to share through startup economics.
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