Here's what it takes to be the next Silicon Valley

Summer 2014

Today, thanks to the international wave of investment in start-up incubators and tech parks, there is a global movement to become the next Silicon Valley. The next tech innovation engine.

And it raise the question: What would it take? How could you do it? Is there a blueprint?

Well actually yes there is.

I'll sketch it out for you.

It's all very simple really. The students come in pay their fees. They labour for Free over their idea in the R&D labs and once they think it's ready to test they invite the other (less studious) students to come down and play. Meanwhile their Fees are channelled through investment vehicles into the hands of the VC's who keep an eye on the campus to see what's bubbling to the surface. Once the idea goes viral on campus the VC steps in and funds the promotion of the start-up through the mass media channels. Academics are invited to comment on how disruptive this next generation of creative energy will be, better still they write a best selling book, and before long you have a viral hit. A few years down the track the Start-Up cashes out via an IPO or a Buy Out from one of the established tech companies down the road (or better still Silicon Valley) and everybody is happy.

Basically it's a feedback loop ignited by each new generation of University students. As a theoretical model it is full of various conflicts of interest. But as an echo system, sorry eco-system, where a multitude of players are busy sharing the love at each point in the flow chart it is perfectly legal. That, after all, is one of the commercial advantages of the network effect.

There is of course an inherent weakness in the model. The type of innovation that gestates within the system is hardly world shattering or game changing. No answers to global warming, or the problems of old age, or cures for cancer to be found here. The type of innovation thinking here is very much shaped by what is front mind for every student (i.e. how do I get laid?). Hence the preponderance of social media apps and web sites over the past decade or so. And of course the leaning towards radical leftish politics over issues like privacy and the value of sharing (other people's property).

But it keeps each new generation excited. Which in turn creates a new wave of momentum, and that's what investors love to see.

Progress. Soft progress. Warm, touchy feely progress.

As to the question: How hard is it to replicate?

My answer would simply be: Why would you bother?

But I can understand the attraction.

So how hard would it be to replicate? It all depends how difficult it would be to re-engineer your Universities from being "Centres of Learning" to "Start-Up Factories". And the answer to that question is how quickly can you get the external consulting fees, conference appearance fees and book sales revenues back into the pockets of the Academic Staff?

Because, in the end, for this to work, everybody needs to be, not so much a potential winner, but a potential game changer.

Everybody has to at least think they can benefit personally from the gold rush. Even if some benefit more than others. There has to be a clear sense that everybody is a winner. Potentially or otherwise. You have to be in it, to win it.

It is, after all, just good business. And you wouldn't want to miss out on the chance of a lifetime.

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