I have been fascinated with Silicon Valley since my youth. As an undergraduate student, I was intrigued by the large concentration of innovation in this region and wondered how Silicon Valley could produce so many tech companies. It seemed, from afar, that Silicon Valley’s success formula was a well-guarded secret. Little did I know that, a decade later, I would end up moving to California to figure it out.
It all started with an epiphany in February 2006. I wanted to solve a problem with the business model of gaming consoles in emerging countries. By design, a console hardware is subsidized by the manufacturer and all profits come from software. Due to rampant piracy in the emerging world, no one was making money in those markets and as a result game developers were no longer interested in supporting them. It was a lose-lose situation for customers, console makers, publishers, developers, and governments.
My solution was to come up with a hybrid between a high-end phone and a console, where games would be downloaded over the air through 3G networks and sold at competitive prices to pirated DVDs. The guts were mobile, the form factor was a console. I had created Zeebo, the world’s first 3G set-top-box (or game console).
This crazy and unprecedented idea, before the iPhone or Android, led me to move to the United States to raise venture capital and go after content providers. It resulted in $57 million dollars raised, a hundred games and apps licensed and developed, a hardware and app store created from scratch, hundreds of thousands of units sold, negotiations with companies from many countries and an entrepreneurship crash course in a culture that I was not familiar with.
After Zeebo, I founded two more companies. 2Mundos, a social gaming developer and publisher focused on licensing entertainment brands; and Satomi, an app that generated logos and patterns in real time using genetic algorithms. At 2Mundos I was able to secure angel investment, and Satomi was accelerated by Plug & Play in Sunnyvale.
My time in California mixed moments of brilliance with many mistakes. I did well as an entrepreneur with soft exits in two companies. If I knew at that time what I know today, my exits would have probably been larger. This is actually my main motivation for writing this book.
By sharing some lessons learned, I want to help founders, students, executives, and even government officials to understand why Silicon Valley is such a powerhouse and how its tenets can benefit players in other ecosystems. My experience as an entrepreneur in the United States, China and Brazil gives me a unique perspective.
I hope the lessons contained in this book enlighten your path toward entrepreneurship. I have learned from Silicon Valley, the hard way, how culture influences outcomes. Do not ever underestimate it.
Regardless of your background, learning the secrets that make Silicon Valley great may help you to think bigger, boost your business competitiveness, and prepare your mindset for the future paradigm shifts driven by technology. If you change, you may also contribute positively to your local ecosystem.
The conclusions and observations shared in this book are based on my own journey through the San Francisco Bay Area and countless conversations with founders, investors, professors, and executives over a period of 10 years.
In the following pages, join me as I attempt to decipher the Silicon Valley code. Thank you.