It is always a challenge not to get used to what happens in Silicon Valley and to think that the rest of the world is like this area. Even many of the students at Stanford University have a kind of depression at the end of their studies at “The Farm”, as it is affectionately called: they realize that they leave a kind of crystal ball that makes the future to return or change to other places that live a reality of the past not so developed or advanced.
Personally, I have fallen into that error, but traveling to my country of origin (Mexico) and other countries helps me to re-locate myself. Only in the first three days of this week I have had meetings in one of Google’s companies, called X (where the craziest projects of the company are cooked), Tesla Motors (manufacturer of high-class electric vehicles), with an entrepreneur with whom we are working on the creation and use of a digital currency, another entrepreneur who offers distance medicine services and another who develops artificial intelligence algorithms to promote innovation in companies, taking advantage of the collective knowledge of their employees and collaborators.
I do not mean to leave a taste of arrogance or conceit in the preceding paragraphs. Silicon Valley is a place that for different reasons is based in California, but in reality it is people from all over the world who have made it and make it possible every day. This density of talent and capital that comes from all over the planet is what favors the reinvention of entire industries here in record time.
The business ecosystem of this place is so dynamic that if you stopped being here and returned two years later, you would talk about industries, issues or solutions to very different problems. Five years ago, for example, the hot topic was social media, location-based services, and data analytics. Today they are things already established and of the past.
Current conversations with entrepreneurs and investors in Silicon Valley revolve around the following topics:
1. Unmanned vehicles. Although Google has been testing its self-driving car technology for several years (even when drivers are always seen at the wheel), this trend did not accelerate until Tesla released version 7 of your operating system for your 100% electric cars.
Today many vehicle automation startups are emerging and investments and acquisitions of companies in this field have been unleashed. Surprisingly, companies that are dedicated to other industries, such as Uber, have bet heavily on developing their own technology for the driverless car. Uber bought Otto, which designs unmanned cargo trucks, for $ 680 million in August and launched its fleet of self-driving vehicles in Pittsburg. On the other hand, companies such as Udacity, founded by a former Google employee, have designed a nine-month course to train engineers in the design of unmanned cars to which 4,000 candidates have applied. I would venture to say that this is the hottest topic in Silicon Valley.
2. IoT (Internet of Things) : the Internet of things. Despite its broad concept, it is another issue on which a bastion of entrepreneurs and investors are betting. The Internet has evolved from connecting governments, companies and individuals to connecting everything, thanks to the miniaturization of electronic components and the ability to store huge amounts of data. In the business delegations that we bring to Silicon Valley from all over the world there is always a common question: if I sell chairs, what do I have to do with Silicon Valley? A few years ago the answer was: you will simply get inspiration to sell your chairs online. Today we could say that this hypothetical chair manufacturer could design it in such a way that sensors are placed so that it is detected if the user is eating too much, and then the doctor, insurance company and his wife are alerted about their way of eating, and even the fact is published on social networks. It is estimated that by 2020 we will have close to 30,000 million devices connected to the Internet.
3. Big Data . Although it is a more commercial term to refer to the storage of data on large servers, it encompasses what Silicon Valley is doing to design services that manage to extract valuable information from everything that is continuously stored on the network on a voluntary and automated. This opportunity is massively demanding engineers who are experts in the design of artificial intelligence algorithms, machine learning, encryption and data compression. People with these skills are certainly in high demand here.
4. BlockChain . This technology includes many of the above. It aims to revolutionize in the coming decades the way in which all, yes all, the assets with which we interact are managed, including money, land, contracts, insurance, cars and any type of financial asset. Blockchain aims to eliminate any intermediary or central system in the exchange of goods and services. The current Internet infrastructure allows the creation of an accounting book of transactions between individuals or legal entities in a very secure way, difficult to violate. The most popular example is Bitcoin, which is a new digital currency not regulated by any bank or government that allows people to exchange goods or services using this digital currency that is not devaluable, as is the case with many currencies by printing banknotes. In the case of Bitcoin, it has been established that the size of that economy will be 21 million bitcoin, and transactions within this currency are valued on that reference. Today a Bitcoin is worth around 600 dollars. Another example of the use of Blockchain are smart contracts, or smart contracts. They run automatically without third party intervention. An example given to me by the entrepreneur who is doing things in this regard is in the insurance industry. In the event of a claim, an insurance company that uses Blockchain technology can connect its policies to sensors in cars, the policy owner’s mobile or the vehicle’s user. If the accident occurs, the sensors, cameras and other devices witnessing the accident will send the information to that ‘smart contract’ to automatically process the responsibilities, and with it the derived compensations. All this without the intervention of a person.
Many of these initiatives sound like science fiction, but they are being cooked in many parts of the world. Silicon Valley simply empowers and globalizes them.
The invitation is to participate as protagonists and not just as spectators in these transformations that are inevitable. There are several ways to get involved: preparing our organizations to adopt these trends; investing in startups that participate in these adventures, or creating a startup in these spaces. Sometimes participating in these businesses seems even more science ction, but it is enough to approach Silicon Valley to see that it is feasible, and more viable than it is believed.