Tech City: a hub for entrepreneurs the world over
Saad Khan, one of the nicest and most accomplished Silicon Valley investors, and I had the great opportunity of meeting each other this past December when a San Francisco incubator, Opinno, took us and Shai Goldman of SVB to Spain for a tour of public speaking. From Madrid to Castellon to Bilbao, we encountered snow, rain, grueling schedules and even the infamous air controllers strike that forced us to escape Bilbao in the middle of the night driving to Madrid in -11C through mountain passes that we risked could have been closed. Everybody knows that we you share with others, you grow, and when you experience with others extreme challenges – not the good times, you bond.
Because of such alignment, and the fact that we both work with entrepreneurs and have been entrepreneurs ourselves, several times over, I’d like to bring to you his plea: that the Arab world needs (Entrepreneurial) Heroes.
For someone sitting in Northern Europe, the Arab culture is something they have experienced in the late part of the twentieth century with the arrival to their countries of refugees or members of British ex-colonies. Lucky students in London or Paris get to meet the intelligent and dedicated Arab graduates progressing their education. For me, a born and bread Andalusian, the Christian, the Jewish and the Arab culture is part of who I am and who my forefathers were, because from 711 a.C. until 1492 a.C. these three cultures not only co-existed with one another but they actually flourished, educated Christian kings, built palaces and irrigation systems, and changed us all forever.
The British government is now funding a challenging initiative: Tech City, a hub in East London near the new Olympic stadium and the financial district that has also gotten the support of big Silicon Valley heroes: Facebook, Google, Intel, SVB, as well as other entrepreneur-linked organisations. The purpose: to build a physical environment that mimics the geographical petri dish of Silicon Valley: short distances between startups and large labs, office space that can be shared with others and so multiply resources, connections, playbooks and, if the Mayfair investors schlep their way over there, their chequebooks.
London is a multi-cultural hub ten times older than New York City. Can you dig it? All the good peoples and the not that good ones have traded, lived and passed through it leaving their mark. Guess where Benjamin Franklin lived for a great number of years?
Tech City cannot afford to look West. We need to open the space to Middle-Eastern entrepreneurs because we need their creativity, their take on life, their spirit and their good influence. Indeed in these last centuries of our history the world has gyrated around Northern hemisphere, Western values and influence. It’s time we go back to where we came from: the East. Let the Eastern vibes fill you up. The East is not just China. There is a vast geography in between full of extraordinary human talent. Do your bit, my friend: connect, read their English blogs, follow their startups and get involved. The reason why Israeli startups have become world-wide sensations is because after they spun out of the Israeli military R&D labs, these entrepreneurs went straight to Silicon Valley for funding, for connections, for international expansion.
Let’s make London the springboard for Arab entrepreneurs. After all, we were one people many years ago.