I just read a post “Europe’s mentor gap: Hey, tech founders, it’s time to give back“. I think it is a problem. I find it difficult to get those who have been successful in Europe i.e Iceland to give back into the community. Even yesterday I had a conversation with an Icelandic entrepreneur who said that successful entrepreneurs in Iceland are very closed and don’t want to share their success or ideas. I guess the notion of giving is not very prevalent in Iceland. I have seen this back in the east, where everyone is brought up with a mentality of scarcity. In addition to that I also think the communities here are not inclusive. It takes a lot of effort for someone to break into the inside circles. Given that I have lived in multiple places and I have been an immigrant almost all my professional life, I can say based on my personal experience that it is difficult being an immigrant. There is only one place where that was not a problem and that was in the United States of America.
I remember first getting off the plane in Atlanta when I was going to Baton Rouge to do my Masters program in Louisiana State University. I never felt like I had to break into anything, almost everyone was generous with their time to help me get acclimatized to the place. It was the same experience when I started my career at Ernst & Young. I never felt that I had to belong to some group to have my ideas or thinking accepted or debated. That is not the same experience that I have had in Iceland. Believe me I have a strong network and I am not very shy when it comes to reaching out to people. As I wrote in my previous post, I try very hard to be humble and polite. Despite all these efforts, I have been repeatedly given advice that if I don’t speak Icelandic and “get with the boys” it is difficult to do what I do in Iceland. Well, I understand the Icelandic part. I am working on it. However, I don’t understand why people cannot be accepted for who they are and what they can do and how they can add value, why should they “be part of the boys club” to do business?
I have also noticed this when it comes to jobs. Companies in Iceland only hired those they know, not based on qualification or experience or knowledge. It was impossible in Iceland to get a job right after the financial collapse. I tried initially to get a job, even those who knew what I could do just turned a blind eye. I was qualified, with tremendous experience and I had a network. To add insult to injury, only 6 months prior I was voted as one of the most valuable players in the 3rd largest bank in Iceland. Despite all that it was almost impossible to get any job offers in Iceland. I applied to some of them I did not even get an interview. To a certain extent this cronyism is what pushed me to do what I do. I told myself, I will create my own job and I did.
A lot of people rail about all the bad things about Silicon Valley culture and how it should not be built everywhere, I beg to differ, what needs to be adopted by every Startup Community is the culture in Silicon Valley of inclusion, i.e it does not matter who you are, you are welcome to participate. You can get a meeting with any founder you want and people are open to share their network with anyone. Another thing that is unique to Silicon Valley is the concept of giving back, every successful founder wants to contribute either by investing, mentoring or sharing their knowledge, failures and successes. We need that in Iceland.