Silicon Valley is an amazing place. The people are intelligent (and laid back), the atmosphere is magical, the weather is nice, and tech is prevalent all around you. When I first arrived to Google’s headquarters it looked like a college campus, and I found out that it actually feels like one too. Everything from the office spaces, the bathrooms, the cafeterias, parking lots, and the atmosphere or vibe reminded me of the old days at my University. Each interviewer was very nice, energetic, and excited to talk with me. A definite highlight during my interview was when a program manager asked me about my passions in life besides technology. When I told her that I am a classically trained violinist, a painter, drone pilot, writer, and filmmaker she yelled, “That’s Googleyness! You’re Googley!” and she wrote it all down. That felt pretty good. I’m Googley!
Riding the Google bicycles all around campus to visit various buildings was fun and great exercise. The people (Googlers) were friendly, smiling, happy, full of energy. Here in Philadelphia, it seems to be quite the opposite. It was the difference between night and day. In Silicon Valley (SV), they value people like me, who add tremendous value to an organization and have a vast and diverse set of skills and talents. In Philadelphia, the “closed circle” of investors, Ivy Leaguers, and entrepreneurs with past successes are the only who ones who are noticed. In SV they value the entrepreneur and what they are capable of, not what idea(s) they are working on, that’s secondary. I love that about SV, and that’s the main reason why I would love to move out there and work out there.
After giving one of the interviewers my background he replied, “Jason, you are such an inspiration! I would love for you to mentor me!” I was shocked. A Googler asked ME to mentor HIM? Apparently running various startups, managing multiple development teams, graduating from a 3 month accelerator, designing and building multiple apps, speaking at large events, mentoring college classrooms, advising local startups, and being extremely organized at managing an entire program holds more clout than just having one of your ideas make it big. Go figure. Philadelphia could learn from this in a huge way.
As I strolled through Palo Alto and visited various co-working spaces, coffee shops, restaurants, and a pit stop at Facebook HQ for a tech meetup I noticed something…entrepreneurs were pitching VC’s everywhere. Not just one pitch or two, but several going on at the same time at various tables in the same places. It was insane. I felt like I was at TechCrunch Disrupt, except this was literally everywhere. As I waited in line for my Soy Vanilla Latte at a free (yes free) co-working space (in a beautiful historic building) I overheard one pair of co-founders pitch a VC about a new API they were in the process of building. When asked by the VC if they had any customers, one of the two said, “We haven’t even built a beta yet, but we can get it done in a few months with this investment.” Then I realized, most of the pitches I was hearing were in fact from startups that hadn’t actually built a product. The startup dream does actually exist….in Silicon Valley!
Philadelphia has this “closed circle” mentality, which unfortunately pushes a tremendous amount of brilliant entrepreneurs out of the mix. Since SV has the opposite mentality, of “everyone who holds value is allowed in the circle”, I now understand why it is the epicenter of tech and startups. I also totally get why entrepreneurs leave Philly every day and move to SV. Simply put, the ecosystem accepts people based on their value and skills, and not because you are launching yet another B2B revenue-driven analytics company. The leaders in the Philly tech scene keep saying that we aren’t like SV, that we are more of a close-knit community rather than a vast ecosystem of behemoth companies. I agree with you there, but that close-knit community is too close. I think it’s time to expand that community, and open it up to geniuses who are everywhere (except for within that closed circle). If not, Philly will never become the tech community that it truly could be.
I hope to one day live and work in Silicon Valley and be surrounded by people who are just like me. Intelligent, passionate, creative, fun, healthy, and above all…Open-minded. Stay tuned as my Google journey has just begun. Even if I am not offered the position I interviewed for (Lead Program Manager Developer Relations Ecosystem), I will still be on their radar for the next 12 months as they will potentially want to interview me again. I would be honored to work for Google and be with entrepreneurs that respect me, are inspired by me, and with whom I can be a part of something bigger than myself.
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