What does it take to recreate a Silicone Valley? This question has been looked at from various perspectives, but how does that relate to us? What will it take for Cape Town to build a strong entrepreneurship community and why is it preferred over Joburg? With this article I hope to re-ignite the discussion and to highlight some things that we, as South African entrepreneurs can use to build upon.
“The exciting thing is, all you need are the people. If you could attract a critical mass of nerds and investors to live somewhere, you could reproduce Silicon Valley. And both groups are highly mobile. They’ll go where life is good. So what makes a place good to them?” – PG
Here are a couple of factors that I perceive to be the most important things that the greater Cape Town area has going for it as far as attracting the types of people that you need for a startup environment:
What do Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Richard Brandson and Steve Jobs have in common? Yes, they are all very rich and successful – they also all dropped out of school or college. But what is the reason for their success? Is it because they are drop-outs and being over educated is a restriction to success? As there are many college dropouts not nearly as successful, I think not.
Not having a formal qualification does put pressure on you to be more innovative, but I think that important thing that most people miss is that with all these successful guys that dropped out were moving onto something else. It was a side project, a dream, a hobby that they managed to make a business out of. Some other project in their life just became more important thatn getting a degree at that point.
Most successful people that I deal with are the types of people who have laods of projects on the go, or at least did before they dropped everthing else to focus on one specific project. When they werre at university they were involved in other societies, clubs, hobbies or businesses. Like Steve Woznaic who designed and built the entire Apple I and Apple II computers in one year… all while working a 9 to 5 job at HP. It was Sergy Brin’s hobby to “donload the whole internet” that lead to the PageRank script that was the foundation for Google’s search.
The fact that many wealthy people don’t have degrees has very little to do with the value of a degree or not. I believe it has way more to do with what they do in their spare time. Hobbies and side projects are far less constrained by the rules of society and are often far more out-of-the-box than the convential 9 to 5 job that you rely on. After all, the more side projects that you run the higher the chance that one of them might just work out.
So next time you meet someone interesting, instead of asking what they do for a living, ask them what they do in their spare time.