I am currently in the process of obtaining a visa to move to the Bay Area. I was recently reflecting on all the ways this was not inevitable and how much my relationship to Silicon Valley has changed in the past five years.

Growing up in Germany, I dismissed Silicon Valley when I was around age 14. Having never left Europe, I found its allure to many smart people quite puzzling. The aesthetics seemed off, the discourse overly simplistic, and the underlying ideology a bit strange. I was sceptical of Silicon Valley’s reputation for agglomerating exceptional talent.

Around the same time, I was extensively searching for exceptional peers within Germany. The results were disappointing, in part because I confined my search to talent clusters that seemed legible to me then. This limitation hindered my ability to find the kind of talent I was looking for.

I remember taking the notion seriously that Silicon Valley was a key driver of progress. However, I considered the unique dynamics surrounding it to be mere coincidences, rather than essential elements to its success.

It turns out that they are not coincidences and I was wrong. In fact, I believe that this was one of my substantial intellectual mistakes so far, as I risked not being embedded in what I now view as the world’s best place for weird people interested in starting technology companies. Many of my talented friends today live in the Bay Area.

What did I miss? It now seems true that the most important peer groups of their time often appear strange in their own unique ways to outsiders. Because of that fact, there’s immense power in a group of talented individuals sharing a set of ideas, norms, and values that seems self-evident internally but weird externally. I think that very notion is quite hard for most Germans to understand, until they have experienced it.

This matters, as Germany does not naturally guide its talented towards important peer groups.

I hope that this blog is helpful for some young, talented people in Germany to understand the dynamics they are embedded within, and hopefully helps them notice the real potential of their talents.

Reading about these ideas never felt sufficient, so I thought about ways to help young talent in Germany get started on a journey similar to mine. I am hosting a get together in Germany to discuss these ideas and share experiences. If you are reading this and want to join, please send me a short email at janniklschilling@gmail.com.

Thanks to Arnaud Schenk and Matt Clifford for insightful conversations and edits.

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