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Cheers to a strong Portuguese community in Silicon Valley -

Cheers to a strong Portuguese community in Silicon Valley

The President of Portugal was in California last Sunday and Monday and that was big news. For most people it was big news because the last time a President visited California was 20 years ago. To me it was big news because a good part of the visit focused on entrepreneurship and Silicon Valley. Usually our politicians like to visit big companies and announce big investments that generate big headlines back home. But it’s hard to make big announcements theses days so it’s fitting that the focus turned to startups and entrepreneurs.

I spoke yesterday on a panel about entrepreneurship in Portugal vs Silicon Valley and one of thing I was very happy to hear was the enthusiasm around building strong ties among Portuguese entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and between us and those in Portugal. A strong network means more opportunities for those in Portugal and there’s no other place in the world like Silicon Valley if you want to be a tech entrepreneur. A better network here means higher probability of success and we desperately need success stories.

One of the problems we historically had in Portugal is jealousy. Whereas in Silicon Valley we look at someone else’s success and think “how can I do the same?”, in Portugal we think “I wish she crashes and burns”. The first reaction means entrepreneurship, because we see success as a source of motivation. The second reaction generates inaction and a toxic environment where people are secretly hoping that you fail.

How do you change that? You do with repeated success and with a transparent path to success. When I say transparent I don’t mean formulaic. I mean giving people a chance to succeed the same way other did. I mean equal opportunities for real.

One of the reasons people in Portugal are suspicious about success stories is that they perceive it’s not transparent – maybe you need connections, maybe you need a rich parent, maybe you need to play dirty.

I believe Silicon Valley is an equal opportunity land (I do, despite recent disputes) and the Portuguese entrepreneurs I’ve met here are generally very down to earth. A strong Portuguese network in Silicon Valley means more opportunities for those of us here and in Portugal, which means more chances to build success in a way we can replicate.

The other key step is collaboration. That’s what made Silicon Valley so special and historically Portugal hasn’t been good at collaborating. That’s why I was so excited to see such level of enthusiasm about building a community here. This is a step in the right direction and one that can help entrepreneurs here and in Portugal. And Portugal desperately needs its entrepreneurs.

Image: jscreationzs /