So he came into the Ant community with his ideas and people were like who are you? They wanted him to go make patches to prove he was really part of the community! He went through about a week of that and he wasn’t particularly happy about it.
Until he realized what was so awesome about the situation: he had had an idea that was something that needed to be done, and he did it and it went out into the world. Then other people actually took it and found so much value in it they wanted to defend it. They really wanted to keep what it was and they saw something in it, perhaps something he hadn’t seen.
We switched topics from there and I asked Duncan about Microsoft’s move to bring German startups into their ecosystem. What is his perspective on this after being in the Silicon Valley tech world?
No matter what, Duncan says, everyone else in the world has mad respect for Silicon Valley and what is going on there. Everybody is in awe of it, even knowing the downside of it as well. And those same people want to know what makes it so unique. How has Silicon Valley come to be what is today Silicon Valley?
He always explains the history including the schools and the military and the initial technology run in the 40s and 50s, and it just continued to snowball from there. It is a special place, and people want to create it somewhere else. But Duncan acknowledges creating an environment like Silicon Valley is the kind of thing that takes decades. You need the universities, the spirit, the willingness to take risks, the ability to fail and to learn from failure.
Some cultures don’t have that as much, both here in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. He says it is fascinating to see people’s desire to emulate that kind of environment, but there’s also a hesitancy and caution people have. He admits to feeling this, too.
Today there are more and more geopolitical questions about people and borders and where they can go, and where they can’t go and where they can and cannot work. The majority of our tech giants in the U.S. are on the West Coast, so could that concentration be an issue geopolitically? There does seem to be a strong urge to centralize. Duncan expands on this thought as well as why, aside from science, we insist on revisiting lessons learned from previous generations
And speaking of learning, does he think the world is still learning from Silicon Valley? Yes for sure. One place you see this is China. Right now it’s really popular to talk about how magnificent and unique China is, but he had ignored it for the most part. However he’s been watching the maker communities in Shenzhen. These groups are using all the fruits of the manufacturing being done in their area and repurpose those pieces. They can take all the pieces of an iPhone, for example, and go use it for something else!
He also talks about Naomi Wu in the Chinese innovation movement, what he does for startups in his role as CTO in Residence Berlin and how he got involved in TED Talks as their main photographer! You’ll hear those great stories and more on today’s episode of CTO Studio.