King Abdullah University of Science and Technology draws parallels between their university and Rainforest Ecosystem


When it comes to promoting innovation, why do some communities flounder while others flourish? 

Venture capital experts Victor W. Hwang and Greg Horowitt, authors of The Rainforest, think they have an answer.

The magic of Silicon Valley, Northern California’s seeming utopia of innovation, isn’t unique, but it is rare. That isn’t because recreating such an environment hasn’t been tried. It has, many times, in many places.

Following the popularization of Michael Porter’s cluster theory, people around the world in government, nonprofits, and academia have been trying to weave together the threads of Henry Etzkowitz’s triple helix to drive regional development. Governments have tried to bring companies big and small together with universities and local businesses to create a self-seeding ecosystem.

But Hwang and Horowitt argue that the cooperation of governments, academia, and the private sector alone is not enough to create ecosystems of innovation, or “Rainforests.” Innovation thought leader Vivek Wadhwa concurs: These efforts inevitably fail, because entrepreneurial ecosystems simply can’t be built from the top down. What is needed, and what governments can’t create, is a culture of information-sharing and mentorship, which is what has made Silicon Valley a success.

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