Mentors are key element in the Silicon Valley ecosystem


The article Silicon Valley has peaked on Startup Grind lists the elements that define the Silicon Valley ecosystem, including mentors:

  1. An entrepreneurial culture that cherishes innovation and risk taking.
  2. Access to a unique and diverse talent pool.
  3. Mentors who have done it before who can share advice and learnings.
  4. Capital to fund innovation from ideas throughout scale.
  5. Established tech companies who respect innovator’s dilemma and realize all innovation cannot happen from within and therefore partner and acquire tech companies.
  6. Other supportive infrastructure such as fast (…ok, it’s only decent) internet connection, not too much regulatory friction or government intervention, legal and media.

Frankly I’d say the headline is clickbait, as the article actually makes the case that the Silicon Valley is at the top of the entrepreneurial mountain and unlikely to be dethroned any time soon, despite growing areas like “NYC, LA, Boston, Austin and Boulder have vibrant tech communities and in Europe London, Berlin, Stockholm, and Paris are usually mentioned as the main hubs. And let’s not forget Beijing, Shenzhen, and Hangzhou who have gone from domestic to global influencers”

But the one key fact missing from the article is the flywheel effect: great companies like Facebook and Google spin out multiple millionaires. That’s where these mentors come from! No one working 80 to 90 hours in Silicon Valley can afford to take the time to mentor. It’s the successful early employees of large companies and founders who have sold their startups or taken them public that have the luxury of mentoring and the desire to “pay it forward.” by mentoring the new crop of startup founders.

Large successful companies give birth to multiple startups, some of which in turn grow into large successful companies giving birth to multiple companies in a self-reinforcing effect seldom found outside of Silicon Valley. This self-reinforcing effect also creates an incredibly powerful network of founders and investors, which combined with successful incubators like Y-Combinator, generate a number of experienced founders who want to give back by mentoring startups, just as they were probably mentored by others.

Until New York, Boston, Berlin et al grow a critical mass of large very successful startups on the order of Google and Apple they will lack the flywheel effect and while there certainly will be mentors available, the number will not approach Silicon Valley, nor will the number of startups or the amount of money VCs invest.

Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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