The Case for a "Virtual Citizenship" for Silicon Valley

Edmilson, is the founder of the EdTech startup Edudream and alumnus of Draper University. 


Once upon a time, in this very same galaxy...

The technology and Entrepreneurship community was shaken. Investors asked themselves: The VC Market is so hot right now... Where are the good entrepreneurs? How can we find the next big thing?


Meanwhile, I was just an average Latin American guy with a big passion for technology and Entrepreneurship. My heroes were Steve Jobs and Larry Page, just regular Joes (like me) who changed the world by developing a technology that spread like fire.

However, those stories were in the epicenter of the digital world: Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley was a fantasy to me. Unreachable due to its high cost and my lack of connections in that world. Yet, just like the young Luke Skywalker, I dreamed of seeing the Galaxy.

My home city of Recife/Brazil is to Silicon Valley what Tatooine is to Coruscant in the Star Wars universe. We have a developing entrepreneurial ecosystem and an abundance of technical talent due to good universities. But in regard to opportunities for entrepreneurs and access to capital, we are just a big pile of sand. 

But everything changed when The Force gave me access to an amazing opportunity: Draper University of Heroes

There, I found everything I was looking for: knowledge, inspiration, networking and, most importantly, access to capital by receiving investment from Draper Associates. After graduation I felt like a Jedi and had wings to pursuit my full potential as an entrepreneur.

We incorporated in the USA to stay close to investors and clients, but our developing team is actually in Brazil, where our costs are 1/5 of that of Silicon Valley. We connect the best of both worlds: Investors, capital and clients from Silicon Valley and a brilliant, motivated and passioante team from Brazil (where the hiring costs are 1/5 of Silicon Valley´s). And guess what? We pay taxes in both countries, so we are helping to generate progress in both!

But put yourself in the shoes of a technology entrepreneur from a developing country for a minute: You are just a little nerd from a third world nation. You have an awesome idea, experience and a relentless determination to make it happen. But you have no money and no connections, there is no venture capital industry in your country and you have to work for a living while you see a great opportunity to loose its time to market.

Consider for example the case of one of our dreamers:  Deborah is a BioMedicine PhD candidate from UFPE (my alma mater) who graduates in August 2015. Deborah has been researching about Cancer RNA markers for 4 years and developed a diagnostic system that is cheap and detects very early stage cancer cells. She was accepted at the MIT Entrepreneurship Bootcamp. From 60 thousands applicants, she was one of 50 selected! But she needs USD$10,000 to finance the tuition, airtickets and cost of living.

She might loose the opportunity to attend this amazing bootcamp because there is no early stage venture capital in Brazil. That is why we work so hard on Edudream: to build a bridge between talent and capital, anywhere in the world. Through Edudream, people anywhere can invest in her Education and get a percentage of her future income with a vehicle called Income Share Agreement.

So, after seeing so much talent in places like Latin America, Africa, Eastern Union and Asia, and so many VC firms and incubators eager to find talent it makes me concluded: 

The current allocation of capital to talent is not optimal!

Places like Draper University, or entrepreneurship bootcamps and incubators/accelerators are helping to bridge the gap. But, still, there is a great divide between the talented people all around the world and the wealth of opportunities in places like Silicon Valley.

So, dear venture capitalists and technology tycoons, my humble suggestion is that you open your mind for new possibilities. The world is big and Flat. New technologies allow people to work remotely and build good stuff from anywhere in the world. The costs of producing software are significantly lower and there are talented entrepreneurs eager for new opportunities. So, investors can find more favorable terms and an abundance of potential investments if they look outside the boundaries of Silicon Valley or disregarding nations.

And the best thing is, you do not have to have a USA Visa to be an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley and follow the american dream. One can start a business online, incorporating in Delaware through a service like Clerky, open a bank account, receive the investment and manage the money everything online! Therefore, the companies you would be investing in are legal entities in the US, but the entrepreneurs can work remotely from anywhere in the world.

In Brazil, I grew up hearing that the US is the land of opportunity and where nothing is impossible. But in this new world, you do not actually have to be physically there to be an entrepreneur. Anyone, anywhere can be a virtual citizen of Silicon Valley!

And I will say it again: Companies like mine pay taxes both in the USA and in its home country. So, instead of thinking "They took our job!", let´s think about how we are creating jobs and paying taxes.

Let´s empower entrepreneurs from all over the world to be virtual citizens of Silicon Valley. 

That can be the solution for the talent pipeline problem of the venture capital industry, and a way to create wealth and opportunities for everyone!