First came Silicon Valley.
Then came Silicon Forest, Silicon Hills, Silicon Prairie, Silicon Holler. The list goes on…
We’ve all heard someone refer to their region as the next “Silicon Valley”. But what does this mean? And, more importantly, what does it mean for you?
Let’s start at the beginning. How did Silicon Valley come to be? An American Physicist and Inventor by the name of Dr. William Bradley Shockley Jr. invented the transistor and moved back home to be near his ailing mother in Palo Alto where he started Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory. Shockley had to recruit his own talent and secure government contracts to sustain business in what was then a little-known area. The company was the first establishment working on silicon semiconductor devices and his attempts to commercialize a new transistor design in 1950s and 1960s led to California’s “Silicon Valley” becoming a hotbed of electronics innovation.
During SXSW, I had the pleasure of hearing Founder and CEO of Uncharted Play, Jessica O. Matthews, tell her story, which is also a story of Harlem. She told us how Silicon Valley was created and wondered:
“Perhaps Harlem can be more. Not just Harlem, places like Harlem.” – Jessica O. Matthews
Jessica learned it starts with entrepreneurial leaders who are committed to being in their city for the long haul. They do big things for their company that in turn drives their local startup community. It takes a strong network of leaders committed to working together, being inclusive, and doing things that help keep people in your community.
Being a Black female entrepreneur, Jessica could have easily felt that there wasn’t a seat for her at the table. But instead, she decided to create her own table. Diverse communities lead to diverse teams. And while 87% of US companies do not reflect the ethnicity of the labor force within their leadership teams, those in the top quartile for diversity are 35% more likely to have above-average financial returns. Jessica found by staying in Harlem she could build both the community and her company. This allowed her to be her most authentic self. She learned one of life’s biggest lessons:
“Succeed not despite of who you are, but because of who you are… unapologetically.” – Jessica O. Matthews
She went on to raise the largest round of Series A funding ever raised by a black woman to date. That money was used to purchase a brownstone in Harlem which became the home of Uncharted Play.
We keep hearing that every company is a “technology company” and every job is a “technology job”. Now I’m telling you every city is a “technology city”. Everyone has the opportunity to help create the new tech frontier — a place where the next generation of startups to influence the world will be born. If you’re not seeing the next hotbed of innovation in your town, maybe it’s on you to help create it.
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