Vivek Wadwha: what Silicon Valley can and can't teach emerging markets

A recent discussion between Vivek Wadwha, Vice President of Innovation and Research at Singularity University, and Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, on the lack of women on Twitter’s executive board brought more attention to the problem of diversity in Silicon Valley. This is not first or last discussion on the topic; as I wrote last year, Eric Ries- and others- have pointed out that diversity enhances productivity; I argue that it's even more critical in emerging markets. 

Wadwha is one of the leading names in Silicon Valley on diversity issues, mainly in entrepreneurship. During my time at Singularity University at NASA’s Ames Research Park, a place Wadha calls his primary base, my classmates and I had a chance to hear his insights on Silicon Valley.

Wadhwa talked about his departure from Harvard and decision to attend Singularity University, explaining that his goal was “to motivate entrepreneurs all around the world to start solving big problems.” Silicon Valley’s culture as one of “openness, sharing, risk-taking, optimism and believing that you can change the world… You don't see this anywhere else in the world," he says.  

In our interview, he compares Silicon Valley to India, explaining how tablets will revolutionize the country. Because Silicon Valley doesn't understand the needs of the developing world, it's best for entrepreneurs in the developing world to learn from Silicon Valley and then export those ideas back to their own markets. Entrepreneurs in the emerging world “solve not only their own problems but the problems of the world,” he explains. 

And yet, those immigrants who come to Silicon Valley are also “creating a magic that you cannot replicate anywhere else in the world,” he says.

Wadwha also discusses his recent book, “The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent” to draw more attention to diversity in entrepreneurship; after all, 52% of startups in the U.S. were created by people born abroad, he says. He is currently working on a crowd-sourced book called “Innovating Women,” which will present more women in the workplace. 

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