On Friday, June 24, 2016, President Obama will speak at the 7th annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit. The United States is hosting this year's summit in the Silicon Valley, where perhaps more entrepreneurs have achieved success than anywhere else in the country. Previous GES events have been hosted by the UAE, Morocco, Malaysia, Kenya, and Turkey, and in 2010 the U.S. hosted the only other previous event in Washington, D.C.
In preparing for this important summit, seven U.S. cities held stops on the "Road to GES," the last of which was Oakland, CA-- only a short distance from the Silicon Valley in miles, but where the climate is dramatically different. I was asked to join a roundtable to speak to the integration of culture within the startup culture and the larger prosperity of this amazing and often underestimated city.
Oakland demonstrates the willingness to expand opportunities for businesses and for entrepreneurs. It also has a spectacularly diverse community, and that diversity is manifest in the businesses that are founded there. Oakland start-ups consciously build companies that are diverse from the start, anticipating not only the rewards that come from viewing the landscape through a broad prism but also knowing that the culture within the company will be richer and more hospitable to future employees and investors. Compare that the the Valley, and even San Francisco, where most companies are built by a narrowly defined ethnic boundary, often by former college roommates at elite colleges. As these companies mature and decide to expand their diversity quotient, they very often find difficulty maintaining a workforce that they seek to make diverse, ultimately spending untold millions of dollars on fixing a problem that could have been avoided by seeking diversity at the company's inception.
Companies in the Valley will spend between $4-8M a year on H1b visas for two employees. Imagine if instead they invested in seeking out and developing the rich array of talent and potential talent to be found in surrounding communities?
As so much of the world and the U.S. economy change, and businesses must answer to the demands of the planet more than any have in previous generations, the understanding and appreciation of culture and diversity are critical. It was an honor to be asked to join this discussion, and it is one I would like to see continue.