Rainforest Rev: Farewell, Silicon Valley

Farewell, Silicon Valley

This is bittersweet to write.  After 9 years in Silicon Valley, I’m moving.

It has been a journey at times thrilling, surprising, and agonizing.  But never boring.  I want to share with you a few takeaways.  We’re also making some changes at T2 Venture Creation, and I want to share those with you too.  We’re spinning out our consulting practice into a new firm, Rainforest Strategies.  And we’re ending our lovely newsletter.

Starting next week, I’ll be the Vice President of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation, based in Kansas City.  The job truly excites me.  It’s an opportunity to transform the startup economy and touch millions of lives.  If I had to design a “dream job,” this would be it.

But I’ll miss the Valley.  I admit it – when I moved here, I wasn’t sure I’d like the Valley.  But we were starting a new and unique venture firm, and it felt obligatory.  I had to be in the Valley.  So I dived in.  I breathed it, absorbed it, dissected it.  And eventually I became a part of it, helping shape its ecosystem and hopefully making it even better.

In the process, I developed a deep understanding of what makes the Valley tick. I wrote and co-wrote a few books about it.  I started a conference for “ecosystem builders” from 50 countries.  I co-founded a startup making the world’s fastest, finest filters for safe drinking water.  We even won TechCrunch Disrupt – you can check out our awesome product here.

Here are a few parting reflections from nearly a decade immersed in Silicon Valley.

First, culture is everything.  People talk about culture a lot.  But until you’ve spent serious time “in the trenches” of an innovative, high-speed, high-risk environment like the Valley, it’s hard to really understand.

How to describe it to someone on the outside?  Remember that time in your life when you stuck your neck out for something. It was scary; you faced criticism; things didn’t work right.  Now imagine sticking your neck out three times as far.  Now imagine doing that day after day.  And now imagine doing that for years. There are a ton of people doing that the Valley.  It’s impressive, even heroic.  When they say that Silicon Valley is not a place but a state of mind, it’s true.  Talented people are everywhere in the world. But right mindsets are precious.

Second, the headlines are a head fake.  When you read the major media covering the Valley, you find mostly stories about big companies: Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Tesla, etc.  These are exciting, dramatic stories of titans doing battle.  But the stories aren’t what really make the Valley the Valley.

The real Valley happens under the radar, when no one is watching, when no one cares.  It happened when Larry and Sergei first met at Stanford.  It’s the day Zuckerberg moved here from Boston.  It’s the moment Jobs and Wozniak finished their first circuit board.  The New York Times missed those headlines.  But the lunchtime serendipity, the coffee shop napkin sketches, the flashes of insight, the first prototype tested – that’s where the breakthroughs are made, where imaginary barriers are smashed.  Those are the sparks that years later can improve countless lives, provide valuable goods and services, and even topple dictators.  The real Valley is made of all the little stuff that never makes the news, but someday changes the world in huge ways.  Don’t be fooled by the easy headlines.  Look for the unwritten headlines.

Third, the new economic paradigm is already here.  But it’s mostly a secret. What do I mean? Today, more and more wealth is derived from values that are manifested as certain behaviors.  Open-mindedness, high trust, diversity, team-building, information-sharing, willingness to take risks, experimentation, rapid iteration.  Those are soft and fuzzy.  But innovation thrives in those environments.  Take a walk down University Avenue in Palo Alto; look in the cafes at the entrepreneurs working.  You can actually “see” those values buzzing everywhere.

Why is this recipe still a secret?  Because we’ve been taught for decades – by the “experts” – that economic activity is value neutral, that reason should overcome emotion. But Silicon Valley has flipped the model upside down.  The Valley is living proof that values – practiced by living, breathing, emotional human beings – are core to innovation, and thus critical to modern wealth creation. That’s a huge shift in the economy.  Most people have a hard time believing it.

The Next Chapter  

As we turn the page, we’re spinning out our consulting practice from T2.  The new firm, Rainforest Strategies, is being led by three brilliant practitioners that have been doing the work on our team for years.  If you are seeking to drive innovation in a company, community, country, or organization, these guys are the best in the business.  They are using the science of innovation ecosystems and creating universal tools for enabling systemic change.  It’s complex stuff, made simple.  It really works.

We’re also shutting down our newsletter, the Rainforest Revolution.  We’ve been running this service for three years, reaching about 20,000 people every week or two.  I am proud that the newsletter was a pioneer. When we started, the idea that entrepreneurial ecosystems could be intentionally and scientifically “designed” was considered odd, even laughed at.  Today that idea is everywhere.  I hope we played a small role in that.  Viva la Revolution.

So farewell, Silicon Valley.  I loved you most of the time.  I couldn’t stand you more times than I can count.  But you’re the Florence of the innovation economy.  And it’s been a privilege and honor.

Life moves on, but certain truths will always remain.  Innovators and entrepreneurs already know them intuitively.  Handshakes are more durable than contracts.  Altruism is more efficient than selfishness.  And silly things like trust and dreams and love… they really do power the world.

Time to turn the page, but stay in touch…

Victor W. Hwang
CEO, T2 Venture Creation

Rainforest Rev: Who Created the Economy?


Who Created The Economy?

Economic prosperity was an evolutionary phenomenon. The more people trade and the more they divide labour, the more they are working for each other. The more they work for each other, the higher their living standards. The consequence of the division of labour is an immense web of cooperation among strangers. Read more…

The Dawn Of The “Craft Economy”?

Innovation Observer
Small companies can now compete with larger players, and even disrupt them with the ferocity not imagined just a few decades ago. The real question of today is how small and large companies can work together to ensure global economic growth through innovation. Read more…

How The Arts Add To Urban Economies

The Atlantic
A recent study finds substantial evidence that performing arts organizations can help cities attract talent, spur innovation, and grow their economies. These organizations can be the proxy for the broader creative and cultural climate of a city. Read more…

To Succeed As An Entrepreneur, Focus On The 5 Golden Priorities

Five priorities to serve as entrepreneurial groundwork: innovation, profitability, cash flow, culture and improvement. Read more…


The Surprising Startup Hub That’s Second Only to Silicon Valley

The Nordic countries, particularly Sweden, have the highest percentage of unicorns per capita in the world, and have developed more successful brand-name billion-dollar startups. Read more…

How A Nation Of Tech Copycats Transformed Into A Hub For Innovation

China’s old attitude has been swept aside by a surge in prosperity. There is a new level of confidence and boldness in the country’s young urban techies. Read more…

Despite Unrest, The Israeli Tech Ecosystem Is Flourishing

Tech Crunch
Global capital is streaming into Israel, despite the regional instability. The Israeli venture ecosystem has more than doubled in two years. Read more…

Rainforest Rev: The End of the Capitalist Era, And What Comes Next


The End of the Capitalist Era, And What Comes Next

The Huffington Post
A new economic paradigm — the Collaborative Commons — is rising and is already profoundly impacting economic life. In a world in which more things are potentially nearly free and shareable, social capital is going to play a far more significant role than financial capital, and economic life is increasingly going to take place on a Collaborative Commons. Read more here…

What The Research Tells Us About Team Creativity And Innovation

Harvard Business Review
Creativity and innovation require different individual skills and team structures and processes. The idea generation stage is often referred to as divergent thinking or exploration. The implementation stage is often referred to as convergent thinking or exploitation. Read more here…

10 Examples Of Companies With Fantastic Cultures

Great benefits and fun working environment with a dedicated goal to make customers happy all fit in with Zappos’ company culture. Warby Parker has a dedicated team tasked with coming up with fun events and programs to promote community and communication. Read more here…


Moving Saudi Arabia’s Economy Beyond Oil

McKinsey Global Institute
Saudi Arabia is the 19TH largest economy in the world.  It can transform itself from an oil dependent economy through increasing its labor productivity, providing a stronger business environment and support sustainable fiscal management. Read more here…

The Anti Silicon Valley: Start-Up Haven Blooms In Moroccan Paradise

Buzz is building around Taghazout in start-up circles, and it is becoming an international hotspot. After hosting the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, the government increased its support for entrepreneurs. Read more here…

Europe’s Startup Economy Is In The Best Shape It’s Ever Been And Still Needs Work

Some $10 billion will be invested this year in Europe’s tech startups, up from $7 billion last year. Europe’s tech talent pool is as deep and broad as it has ever been, with 1.6 million professional developers at work (nearly equal to the number in the U.S.). There have been more than 100 European tech IPOs in last 5 years, more than those in the U.S. Read more here…

Rainforest Rev: Innovation Conversation and Design-Centered Strategy


Innovation Conversation With Doblin’s Larry Keeley

Henry Doss, Chief Strategy Officer of T2 Venture Creation, from Forbes
The best possible approach is where top leaders build an “Innovation Intent,” a clear, measurable mission for innovation.  Then, senior leaders can operate in response to this intent as the sponsors of innovation; and high potential young people can then adopt a role as the authors of innovation initiatives. Read more…

IBM’s Design-Centered Strategy To Set Free the Squares

The New York Times
Across corporate America, there is a rising enthusiasm for design thinking not only to develop products but also to guide strategy and shape decisions of all kinds. Design thinking flips traditional technology product development on its head. In the design thinking way, the idea is to identify users’ needs as a starting point. Read more…

Beyond The Buzz Words: Corporate Innovation

Corporations launched accelerators and innovation centers in bulk. Fortune 500 budgets started flowing into entrepreneurship and innovation to stay ahead of the curve. Read more…

Are Humans REALLY That Smart? A New Book Says It’s Complicated.

This View of Life
Contrary to popular opinion, humans really aren’t that smart. Human intelligence doesn’t reside in the individual. It is distributed across the cultural systems that have accumulated a dizzying array of solutions to life-and-death problems across the span of many generations. Read more…


An Innovation Case Study: Pittsburgh

MIT Technology Review
Pittsburgh has strong university pipelines, affordable living costs, great quality of life, and collaborative tech ecosystems. The companies here are working on complex technologies with real-world applications, including advanced robotics, low-cost batteries to store renewable energy, and self-driving cars. Read more…

Norway Ranks First At World Prosperity Index

According to the 2015 Prosperity Index which was published by the Legatum Institute, Norway is once again first in the ranking. The country is famous for its social market model. Read more…

The Fastest-Growing States For Tech Jobs In 2015

The top three states, according to a new list of fastest-growing states for tech jobs: Minnesota, Utah and Nebraska. New York and California rank, but they are at Nos. 7 and 10 respectively. Read more…

Rainforest Rev: Does Corporate Culture Really Matter?


The Big Question: Does corporate culture really matter?

Capital Ideas, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Corporate culture is the key determinate of the firm’s reputation. Culture acts as an overarching framework for employee behavior. Leaders demonstrate and set examples for others to follow. As the company grows, employee selection and training become the levers to inculcate the company core values. Read more...

Building A Rainforest Firm: Lessons From Silicon Valley

Promote leaders who are “keystones” in leveraging the collaborative potential of your team. They will be brokers of trust and cooperation among everyone else in the firm. Read more…

An Evolutionary Approach to Sustainability Science

Social Evolution Forum
If the strength of selection on groups for resource conservation is stronger than the strength of selection on individuals for greater consumption, costly conservation practices and group-beneficial policies are likely to emerge. Read more…

7 Ways to Nurture Your Creative Soul

The bias of our perspective is rooted in our expertise; it influences the way we see the world. Step into the worlds of your teammates and study their processes and understand their methodology.  It can in turn provide insights on what you can tinker with your own creative process. Read more…

4 Key Ingredients For Creating An Ideas Incubator

Fast Company
Large companies must find a way to make these incubator initiatives feel like meaningful, all-or-nothing endeavors, much like how entrepreneurs feel. To stay on top through innovation, corporations need to adopt the hands-off stance of an investor. Read more…


Engineers Meet Artists: Discover the Startup Ecosystem in Bristol and Bath

The Next Web
There’s a burgeoning startup ecosystem in Bristol and Bath, which form part of the so-called Silicon Gorge in the south west of England. Read more…

Silicon Prairie: Tech Startups Find A Welcoming Home In The Midwest

National Public Radio
One of the secrets to the economic success of Lincoln, a city with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, is a surprisingly strong tech startup community that is part of what some in the region are calling the Silicon Prairie. Read more…

These Are the 20 Richest Cities in America

Bloomberg Business
San Jose, San Francisco, and Seattle house more headquarters of the world’s largest technology companies than other places. These cities are also some of the most productive hubs in the U.S. economy. Read more…

Rainforest Rev: Reinventing the Company


Reinventing The Company

The Economist
Startups are redesigning the basic building block of capitalism. The disrupters are reinventing how business works. They are also reinventing what it is to be a company. Today’s startups are pioneering a new sort of company that can do a better job while exploiting new technology. Read more…

How Can Your Company Create A Culture Of Innovation?

World Economic Forum and Knowledge Wharton
We need to learn the art of celebrating failures and the lessons from those failures, so that people push the boundaries, try new things, experiment, co-create with the customers and build an environment that is full of innovation, and that keeps you progressing in short bursts along with your customer. Read more…

Innovation Isn’t So Much About The Eureka Moment

PBS Newshour
The processes to create the Reebok Pump & helmet impact sensor were mundane and tedious. First they establish a clear objective, then conceptualize what they want to do, explore what materials they need to build the product, and then assemble it. Read more…


An Orange Carpet for Entrepreneurs

Kauffman Foundation
Four years after the White House launched the Startup America project, more than 60 nations have emulated the effort in different ways. The StartupDelta was set up to establish the Netherlands as one of the top three most attractive startup ecosystems in Europe. Read more…

Brunei Darussalam: A Time for Stock Taking

Southeast Asian Affairs
Brunei’s government is moving beyond the oil and gas industry, which has dominated its country. Progress can be seen in three clusters of domestic business enterprises: small/micro industries in services or products; Information and Communications Technology-related enterprises, and large industries through foreign investment and joint ventures. Read more…

The Best and Worst Countries to Run a Business, According to the World Bank

The Wall Street Journal
The top 10—the most business-friendly countries—were largely unchanged from last year, with Singapore holding its No. 1 ranking and the U.S. still in the No. 7 spot. Eritrea, Libya, South Sudan and Venezuela were ranked the worst countries to try and run a business, respectively. Read more…

Rainforest Rev: Innovative Organizations and Design Firms


The Innovative Organization: Learning From Design Firms

Design firms align their innovation processes to discern unarticulated, even unconscious, user needs. Designers generate new ideas based on user insights within an atmosphere of freedom and playfulness. Producing fast and cheap dummy versions to test out concepts means that even when the experiments flop, failures are not negative events but learning experiences. Read more…

Winds Of Change At Dyson

Fast Company
The company’s innovation team comes up with a dozen prototypes, which are modeled and shown off to other engineers every week. The most promising, no matter how seemingly far-fetched, are sent to James Dyson himself. An engineer could work up his prototype and have it in hand by the end of the day.  Then comes the long testing process. Read more…

Why Lego’s CEO Thinks More Grown-Ups Should Play At Work

The Huffington Post
Playfulness is at the root of creativity. Injecting a sense of fun into work situations gives everyone permission to be more authentic and to take risks. Out of that comes greater innovation, more collaboration and richer learning. Read more…

Five Ways To Make Innovation ‘Sticky’

The Brookings Institution
Unfortunately, America’s ability to capture the benefits of the domestic scale-up of U.S. technology innovation remains spotty.  Making innovation sticky depends on strengthening local ecosystems. Read more…

Are Big Cities Still A Primary Engine For Scientific Innovation?

National Public Radio
Groups of people who are thinking about similar things – when they get together, they’re much more productive than if they were not together. A new analysis from Stanford University suggests that, when it comes to invention and to scientific innovation, it’s not as important as it used to be. Read more…


Michigan State University Business Librarian Book Report

Northern Lakes Economic Alliance
If you are going to create new products or services, then The Rainforest Blueprint is insightful in helping you to conceptualize the goal of developing innovation capability and to plan the steps to carry it out. Read more…

Global Cities 2015: The Race Accelerates 

A.T. Kearney
Sixteen global cities dominate with their ability to attract and retain global capital, people, and ideas, as well as their future prospects. New York, London, Paris and San Francisco lead in the latest research. Read more…

Iran’s Digital Start-Ups Signal Changing Times

Western business people returning to Iran in the wake of the nuclear deal may be surprised to find plenty of entrepreneurial drive from a new generation of online start-ups, which have appeared despite years of international sanctions. Read more…

Santiago’s Startup Culture In ‘Chilecon Valley’

The Wall Street Journal
Start-Up Chile in Santiago provides entrepreneurs with $40,000 and a six-month residency visa to launch their businesses. The government aims to turn the city into Latin America’s innovation and tech hub. Read more…