Silicon valley refers to the southern part of San Francisco Bay area of Northern California in the USA, and got its name from the large number of companies in the area engaged in silicon chip manufacture. However, it evolved into a term that has now come to represent the hub of American high-tech industry, with names like Apply, Google, eBay, face book, Cisco, Adobe, Hp, Yahoo and many other companies that fall into the Fortune 1000 category.
The success of Silicon Valley has lead many countries to try to imitate it, although in a rather distorted and artificial way; countries like the UK, India, and lately Russia, and Qatar and also on the list. Although these countries are putting in tremendous effort to develop their high-tech industry, they are in no wise creating another silicon Valley.
Silicon valley was originally called the Valley of Heart’s Delight, due to its landscape was but first termed “Silicon Valley” in a 1971 article in the newpaper Electronic news.
The history of Silicon valley dates back to Stanford University, its students , affiliates, and a onetime Dean of engineering, Frederick Terman (often called the father of Silicon Valley) who in the 1940s and 50s encouraged students to start their own business. As a result, the institution grew from a campus to an industry of high-tech entrepreneurs around the campus, most of which were nurtured by Frederic Terman, including Hewlett-Packard (which was started by two Stanford Students).
Another key element in the history was Stanford’s quest for survival after world war II. This it solved by leasing its land strictly to high-tech industries that it could benefit from.
Stanford University got into solid state research with the support of private corporations (NOT GOVERNMENT), leading to the development of the microprocessor, microcomputer and many other foundational technologies of the high-tech industry. All these were made possible by the large geographical concentration of skilled and passionate minds in the area and the generous funding by a network of venture capitalists and the leadership of Stanford. In all this, the Stanford Research Institute was born, comprising of university authorities, and private business men.
A good number of the companies in the Silicon Valley area were owned by former students of Stanford, including HP.
This is not intended to be a detailed history of silicon valley, but just a way of drawing out attention to some key lessons in its history which can be applied anywhere.
Lesson 1 No one, who intends to do anything, waits for any man to do it for him, not less the government, he steps out and gets it done.
Lesson 2 Someone must plant the seed and pay the price, Here we refer to the constant motivation of Fred Terman for his students to start businesses. Therefore we must constantly talk about it, encourage it and motivate the young generation to step out confidently and take this country and Africa back.
Lesson 3 There must be extensive knowledge sharing: too many people Hoard knowledge in our environment, even if ideas cannot be shared in details for fear of being stolen, yet information, knowledge pertaining to a field of study must be shared freely amongst members of the industry, especially in the stages of development and even beyond. Every year, countless training and development conferences hold in the silicon valley area to continue the trend of knowledge sharing, countless online association (free and paid) abound for this, and countless industry-university alliances, which brings us to the next point.
Lesson 4 The educational institution must train, study and research strategically in a way that will benefit the local industry. This is the only way graduates can be relevant, and this is the only way the Industry can be interested in the institutions. Mutual benefit must be sought. Industry has ideas, the institutions have minds and equipments (or should have).
I would however like to note that the mindset that a geographical concentration of industries is still necessary is obsolete, especially in the age of information. The internet has given us the world’s largest hub for everything, and we must maximize it. Hubs like TEKEDIA and many others need to spring up to great a meeting point for like minds, while symposiums, private interaction between like minds and conferences need to be more frequent in specific and strategic areas of development.
Lesson 5 The private investment is key. The Silicon Valley rode of two wings: ideas and private venture capitalism. We have a lot of private industries in Nigeria who invest their resources into music, entertainment and media, with absolutely no investment in education and research. I think it is because no one has given them a reason good enough to do so, for me, it’s time to do that. Private investment must be sought and maximized to develop a high-tech hub. The Stanford Research Institute was such a body created to maximize all mental and financial resources needed for development.
No one ever waited for the government to do anything, where it took the government to get things done, it was because the man who got into leadership had greater passion than everybody else, and decided to use the resources at his disposal to get it done. If that man were not in government, he still would have gotten it done one way or another.
Some might wonder why a country like Nigeria would want to develop a high-tech hub, some might deem it pointless and useless, but Nigeria is still the giant of Africa and we must pave the way. In addition, we are the largest nation in Africa, if we cannot do it then who will. West Africa and indeed Africa waits on us in many areas.
This is more than a blog post; this is an insight into the steps to the birth of a valid high-tech industry in Nigeria to serve Africa and the world, which is already on the way.