Saturday, July 4, 2020

Paying It Forward

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

The Silicon Valley has been the hub of entrepreneurial activity and at the forefront of innovations that have taken the world by storm over the past 25 years. While there are many factors (talent, capital, technology, head start) that have contributed to the mega success of the valley, I kept coming across “paying it forward” in the interviews of the super successful valley people. Let’s see what it means and how it has played a large role in shaping up the culture of the valley.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as to respond to a person's kindness to oneself by being kind to someone else. To pay it forward means that instead of paying someone back for a good deed, you do a good deed for someone else. There is also a book and movie by the same name.

The most famous story is of Intel CEO Robert Noyce agreeing to meet and coach a wannabe entrepreneur Steve Jobs in 1975. “Bob Noyce took me under his wing, I was young, in my twenties. He was in his early fifties. He tried to give me the lay of the land, give me a perspective that I could only partially understand,” Jobs said, “You can’t really understand what is going on now unless you understand what came before” As Mark Zuckerberg was struggling in his early days as an entrepreneur he turned to Steve Jobs for advise and Steve obliged. Paying it forward.

Fairchild Semiconductor was possibly the first success story of the valley, what is unique was that their employees would not hesitate to show up at their competition to help when called to solve a technical difficulty. What is entrepreneurship if not the burning desire to help others, including your competition. This may be what makes silicon valley tick. The valley works on network. No one can build a solid network without paying it forward, without the willingness to help others.    
Another way to think about it can be Gratitude. It inspires kindness connection, strengthening social ties and making one happy.

We also see similar examples in the Marwari and Jain communities where the senior and successful help the young entrepreneurs of the community get started with capital and good advise. May the tribe of people who keep paying it forward keep growing!!