3 Lessons Startups Can Learn From Silicon Valley

Reid Hoffman is the co-founder of LinkedIn and one of Silicon Valley’s most well-known investors. In a recent interview with CNBC, Hoffman talked about how he would change Silicon Valley if he had a magic wand. “We want more areas around the world to be entrepreneurial hothouses,” Hoffman said.  So we need more of the ‘Hey, how do we (Silicon Valley-based companies) spread the entrepreneurial knowledge culture?’ How do we help other cities like Detroit and New Orleans? Now, there are some people doing this but I’d like to see more,” he continued. Let’s face it, Silicon Valley’s diversity problems are no secret. So, of course, we don’t need to create a replica of the region known for producing some of the most innovative companies in the world. But there are still quite a few lessons startups can steal from the Silicon Valley framework.

Build a community around your startup

Companies like Google and Facebook tap into their very own powerful networks of local businesses, former colleagues, partners, and friends. These communities exist as a safe space where people can not only ask questions, find experts, and hire talent but they can also easily share ideas, successes, and failures. Ultimately, through a combination of events, resources, and initiatives you can build your social capital to support your position and market advancement.

Focus More on Employee Growth vs. Employee Retention 

Employee retention is a pain point for many companies. However, nowadays, companies are embracing the fact that employees will explore other career opportunities—sooner than later. Wesley Brandon, a black engineer, and president of CTEMS, a Silicon Valley-based engineering and manufacturing company says, “To build a better workforce and culture of innovation, we have always focused on growing employees, rather than retaining employees. Through development activities, cross-functional training, and mentorship, we encourage employees to grow beyond the walls of CTEMS.” Tech companies such as Netflix and LinkedIn also share similar sentiments. Netflix’s website states, “Knowing that other companies would quickly hire you if you left Netflix is comforting. We see occasional outside interviewing as healthy, and encourage employees to talk with their managers about what they learn in the process.” Author of Superbosses and Dartmouth business professor Sydney Finkelstein writes that the best managers don’t try to hold on to employees forever. Finkelstein says the way “superbosses” become successful themselves is by creating industrywide networks of people who have worked for them so that they’re always well-connected.”

Build a culture of innovation

In theory, innovation sounds great. But innovation can’t happen if leaders aren’t giving employees a chance to reject the status quo, use mistakes as opportunities, and rethink how things can be done. Innovation is trial and error. It’s an interactive process, which includes things like hack days to enable out-of-the-box thinking. Hack days give people a voice to share emerging trends, themes, and opportunities. For instance, on the Masters of Scale podcast, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt discussed the company’s 20% time rule— a policy where any employee could devote 20% of their work-week to any project they’d like. He said many of the products people know best—Gmail, Google Maps, Google News, AdSense—grew out of ideas generated by employees, during this 20% time.

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