Valley: The Innovation Economy of the Future Is Here
“There wasn’t some clairvoyant vision or notion that I had to hit certain milestones. Everything that I did to grow was predicated on the desire to learn – learn about myself, the needs of an organization, and how to properly maintain its growth. There is a certain extemporaneity that characterizes my journey so far.”
These are the words of Zayd Ali, the current CEO of Valley, a company transforming the way companies grow. The value of residing in Silicon Valley is dwindling due to the increasing popularity of nomadism, the globalization of the computer industry, and the proliferation of remote jobs. Once exclusive to one region, startup communities, finance, and talent have since gone global. Although this has helped to provide more equal possibilities, make the ecosystem more inviting, and make it simpler to invest in and build businesses, it has also contributed to the ecosystem becoming more fragmented than before. Valley is constructing the digital infrastructural aims to link these islands and make Silicon Valley accessible to anybody with an internet connection.
“I saw that there were people capable of building companies everywhere… but taking the next step to building a venture-backed company requires a lot more than just relying on yourself. You need to attract talent and capital. But the majority of builders aren’t in areas or don’t have the networks which allow them to be discovered by those who can help them in this company-building journey… the natural progression is that Silicon Valley [should move] to everywhere – every city has people capable of building incredible companies. In order to allow for the natural expansion of Silicon Valley, you need the infrastructure to allow it to exist. So my co-founder and I embarked on the journey of building a digital Silicon Valley – Valley. We began building and raised our first round of venture from the investors in Uber, Robinhood, Calm – Jason Calacanis, and Antler – the largest pre-seed fund in the world.”
Inspiring the creation of Valley were Zayd’s own experiences as a startup’s founder.
Zayd began his studies at Tulane University after selling his first firm, which specialized in customer acquisition for financial advisors, for seven figures while he was only nineteen.
Then, “like any other 19-year-old,” he adds, “I went to University.” “I understood very immediately that it was not for me. I felt I needed to keep going, so I took a break from school after the first semester to begin working at Valley (at that point it was called FISH). A solution to my own personal issue inspired me to create FISH. I realized that everyone, including myself, was capable of establishing successful businesses.”
Zayd is constructing Valley at the same time that he attends Columbia University in New York.
The concept behind Valley — that entrepreneurs can start and build great companies from anywhere if they have the ability to build networks — is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The natural progression of the expansion of Silicon Valley is that it will be global. There has been a 600% increase in the last five years of venture dollars flowing between the coasts.
“10 years ago there were 36 cities with more than one unicorn [a startup with a valuation of $1 billion or more]. Today there are over 170. There is a quarter-trillion in venture dollars sitting as dry powder. Finding asymmetric returns occurs by discovering locations for startup talent and company-building prowess that others have overlooked. That means the new Silicon Valley must play on a global scale. Long gone are the days when founders needed to graduate from Stanford, move down the road and go to Y Combinator, and get funded by an Andreesen or Accel. That trifecta is still a powerful one – but it is no longer an imperative or a necessary building block to a successful outcome. A social layer to replicate the communities created in version one of Silicon Valley is critical for the growth and success of the space. We need connection, we need easy access, we need to discover people who can’t fly to Tier 1 US cities but are progressing at an unimaginable rate… and we need to empower them. That is what Silicon Valley [is supposed to be] all about. Discovering the undiscovered.”
Within the next five years, where does Zayd see Valley?
“The whole market for funding startups will be accessible through our system. Valley is a global platform for early-stage company discovery, collaboration, discussion, voting, and investment.”
Zayd Ali is the President and Chief Operating Officer of several non-profit organizations, as well as the recipient of the Prudential Spirit of Community Award and the Points of Light Award. He has been featured on CNN Business, NBC, ABC, FOX, and Marketwatch.