When it comes to Silicon Valley, many people will be familiar with it. For example, Intel, EMC, Oracle, Google, Cisco, eBay, PayPal, Broadcom, NASA, HP and Tesla, etc., these familiar high-tech brands are basically born here. Not only do they influence every aspect of people’s lives, but they also lead the global technology industry to keep moving forward.
Besides, as protests against racial discrimination have intensified, Silicon Valley tech companies have begun to speak out. Google also announced an Economic Opportunity Program totaling about $175 million to invest in black-led venture capital firms and startups. The following day, Facebook also announced that they would provide $200 million in funding to black-owned businesses and organizations and pledged to increase the percentage of people of color in the company’s leadership. Right after that, Masayoshi Son’s Vision Fund jumped in, saying it was going to invest in 14 startups founded by non-white founders.
What is it about such a small place that allows it to continue to breed and develop so many great high-tech companies that continue to lead the world in high-tech development? And what makes Silicon Valley value more black people? This article will analyze the formation of Silicon Valley culture from political, social and economic perspectives.
- Political Factors
Although today’s Silicon Valley is famous for its continuous innovation in the field of Internet, the shadow of the U.S. government is also indelible in its history of development. From 1958 to 1974, the Pentagon purchased $1 billion in semiconductor research and products from Silicon Valley, and more than 40 percent of Silicon Valley’s semiconductors went to the Pentagon.
These technologies were then gradually commercialized and morphed into products that are more familiar today, such as handheld radios, hearing aids, computers, and mobile communications devices, VCDs and DVDs. From that time on, the demand for transistors and integrated circuits from civil society increased dramatically, while the share of the defense and aerospace industries gradually shrank, allowing Silicon Valley to successfully transition its main products from military to civilian use. Since then, venture capital eventually replaced military funding as the main source of funding for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, and Silicon Valley began to become the center of innovation in the United States and around the world.
Nowadays, Silicon Valley tech companies are showing their affection for black people, and it’s also closely related to politics. Since the election of Donald Trump, political correctness has been “kidnapping” Silicon Valley tech companies and the tech industry. At the time of Donald Trump’s rise, only a few people in the tech sector had publicly supported the presidential candidate, but they were influenced by their political choices. Palmer Luckey, for example, the founder of Oculus VR, was forced to leave the company after it was revealed that he was secretly funding a pro-Trump group. Today Silicon Valley is increasingly black, and while this is a move in a more idealistic direction, it is not essentially driven by ideological progress, but rather a forced choice made under the pressure of political correctness to follow the will of the majority of the country and ignore the dissenting minority in Silicon Valley.
The formation of the Silicon Valley culture is the result of the gathering of talent and the release of free will. Silicon Valley is home to educational and scientific institutions such as Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, Santa Clara University, San Jose State University, NASA, and Lawrence Laboratories. These institutions have nurtured talent and combined it with the results of scientific research to begin to breed and develop in the Silicon Valley.
Stanford University’s motto is ” The wind of freedom blows”, UC Berkeley’s motto is Latin: “Fiat Lux -Let there be light”, the most admired ” free will”. UC Berkeley became globally known for its student protests against the U.S. government during the Vietnam War, and the Free Speech Movement, launched at UC Berkeley in 1964, became a universal American value. In addition, the feminist movement, the black movement, the gay rights movement, the pro-minority groups movement, etc., all originated here. Also, the hippie culture in the United States originated in Berkeley, which shows that “free will” is really the soul of creativity and art. Such an open and liberal public opinion and social atmosphere has continued to promote the development of the black movement in Silicon Valley.
In 2014, there was a trend of diversity throughout Silicon Valley, which started at Google. That year, Google made the unprecedented move of releasing the ethnic and gender ratios of the company’s employees, said David Domd, then head of public policy at Google, adding that many Silicon Valley companies had been reluctant to release such data, and Google was one of them, and frankly, we were wrong. Since then, Silicon Valley tech companies have stopped hiding data on the gender, country and race of their employees, and are instead eager to demonstrate their pursuit of a culture of diversity by revealing these data to the outside world.
3. Economic Factors
Another important point in the formation of Silicon Valley culture is the initial capital investment. The multi-level capital market has met the various capital needs of Silicon Valley’s innovation and entrepreneurship. The United States not only has a complete, multi-level capital market system, where mature companies are able to obtain funds through public market financing, but also early-stage startups can easily obtain the support of private venture capital funds. In other words, in the early stage of entrepreneurship, entrepreneurs with good technology can find investors to obtain investment, turn the technology into products and services, and finally realize the value. In this process, multi-level capital markets are needed, such as angel investment and venture capital, which are very risky but play a crucial role in the transformation of scientific and technological achievements.
In fact, innovation originates from science and technology and succeeds in finance. This means that finance has a supporting role for science and technology innovation. According to statistics, in 2015, there were more than 300,000 active angel investors in the United States, and the capital size of the angel investment market accounted for more than 1% of GDP, with the investment amount reaching $7.5 billion in 2018, and the most active areas of angel investment activities in the United States gathered in the Silicon Valley region of California. In layman’s terms, capital is also chasing places where it can maximize profits – places where it can continuously produce new technologies, new industries, new business models, and where huge profits can be realized in the future.
There are also many economic considerations behind Silicon Valley’s overtures to blacks today, and the benefits are obvious.One is the demographic dividend. Africa’s labor force will surge to 163 million by 2020, surpass China’s by 2035, and by 2050 Africa will account for 25% of the world’s workforce. Under the influence of high birth rate, Africa’s demographic structure is getting younger and younger.Second is the huge market potential, with 54 countries, more than 1 billion people, 52 cities with millions of people, and 50% of the urban population in 2030. African countries will be the fastest growing economies for a long time to come. The painful lesson of the U.S. tech giant’s exit from China has left Silicon Valley with palpitations, and in the face of Africa’s “gold mine,” they can’t simply replicate the business wisdom that has proven successful before. And if blacks can’t enter Silicon Valley tech companies to increase the source of creativity, it’s hard to create products that cater to African users.
Technology rules the future, and the formation and development of Silicon Valley is taking the pulse of the world, but a fact that we all hate to admit is that sometimes in the pursuit of making the world a better and more efficient place, you can also hurt others.
These days we can all relate to technology companies desperately competing to have a huge impact on everyone’s lives. Leaders of major Silicon Valley companies are frequently called to testify before Congress to explain their use of customer data, the means by which foreign activists use these technologies to disrupt elections, and the possible bias of algorithms that control what we see.
As Alphabet Chairman John Hennessy said: The tricky thing for Silicon Valley unicorns now is how they intend to take responsibility and govern themselves, not only in line with the interests of their shareholders but also in the interests of society at large.
On the issue of blacks in Silicon Valley, Abadesi Osunsade, founder of career development platform Hustle Crew, says tech companies can’t always make one-off statements and actions, but should instead cultivate a habit against racial equality. For example, hiring African-Americans as a habit, promoting African-Americans as a habit and investing in African-American founders as a habit can really change the status quo of racial bias in the industry.
Despite the fact that these tech companies have made only small strides in employee diversity, critics applaud the tech giants’ efforts to publish these reports. But is it necessary for the tech industry to advance racial equality? Is giving “special treatment” to people of color, technological prowess aside, another form of discrimination?
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