Five Lessons from Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley is considered the world’s premier innovation hub. Claudia Schaller, Founder of InFutura, lived and worked for over 15 years in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. “California gives me wings while Bavaria gives me roots” she answers when asked about her bi-continental lifestyle. She has her own view on why Silicon Valley is so innovative and what we can learn from it. 

Don’t Build a Network. Build a Community.

A network is fairly easy to establish. Especially with today’s social media apps, a wide network is just a few clicks away. Each of us can be connected with someone thousands of miles away without knowing anything about her or his beliefs and values. A community however, is substantially different; it is glued together by a collective belief which creates a robust social structure. Silicon Valley happens to have a powerful collective belief that itself acts as an accelerator: “Pay it Forward”. This means helping someone even if there’s no immediate or direct benefit in sight. If a group of people are held together by this belief, it creates a very powerful community. Start paying it forward! Invest some time and knowledge in others –  help, connect, be inclusive and build your community. Though all of this takes time and effort, the ROI is invaluable. 

Diversity is a Superpower. 

Silicon Valley and San Francisco are one of the most diverse places; people with different ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds live together in a relatively small geographical area. Many studies have shown that diversity spurs innovation at the workplace – particularly diversity of gender, country of origin, career and industry background. But diversity goes beyond the workplace; the friends we surround ourselves with, the experiences we seek, the books we read. Diversity can sometimes be challenging and uncomfortable since it requires openness and perspective change. Only then can we create new neural pathways helping us to come up with innovative solutions. 

Nothing Endures but Change. 

Change is inevitable. On a large and small scale, everything is continuously in flux. Silicon Valley is so innovative because it allows change to happen; it even invites it. New technologies are welcomed and curiously experimented with (everyone is kind of an early adopter), career change is seen as an asset, startups effortlessly pivot, companies fail and new ones are formed. Embracing change is the soil on which innovation grows; and it allows for evolution without being stuck in the past, an important factor when overcoming hardship or failure.

Misfit Equals Benefit.

Steve Jobs loved the misfits, the crazy ones, the rebels and the troublemakers. For him they were the geniuses that can change the world. We all have a bit of misfit in us, some more, some less. And instead of condemning them for the sake of fitting in, many San Franciscans embrace their inner misfits full-heartedly; the quiet engineer who loves crazy costume parties, the Mom who prefers jiu-jitsu fights over playgrounds. They have realized being a misfit can be an ultimate differentiator, a creative power no one else possesses. 

Be F***** Friendly. 

Silicon Valley is a highly competitive environment – still, people are genuinely friendly to each other. Germans confronted with this fact usually encounter “it’s all fake”. No – it is not. Many have simply realized that friendliness can be one of the easiest and most impactful tools we have. It is THE ultimate door opener. It paves the road for a spontaneous conversation, for a discussion at work, for a new personal relationship or a business connection. And if not, it just makes daily life a little bit more pleasant.

Claudia Schaller, PhD, is a hybrid professional combining Life Sciences and Entrepreneurship.  As Founder of InFutura, she builds ventures, consults and researches in the health, food and tech sector. As Director of Founder Institute Munich, a pre-seed startup accelerator, Claudia guides new Founders from ideation to incorporation. She’s an equality activist and launched Changemaker Chats Munich, a platform for female empowerment. She frequently speaks about gender gap, biohacking and Silicon Valley. Claudia worked for many years at an US-based innovation consultancy with Silicon Valley clients like Apple, Dolby and Tesla; her PhD was received for conducting medical research at University of California San Francisco. 


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