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Silicon Valley’s monopoly on innovation is over says Takealot’s Willem van Biljon

The monopoly that Silicon Valley has long held in technology innovation is “largely” over, says tech entrepreneur and take-a lot co-CEO Willem van Biljon.

Van Biljon is a former Silicon Valley resident himself and one of South Africa’s most respected tech entrepreneurs. The former CSIR employee co-founded Mosaic Software which he sold to S1 Corp in 2004, before starting Nimbula which was later acquired by Oracle in 2013 for $110-million. Since 2014 he has served as co-CEO at SA ecommerce site Takealot.

Read more: Are these the 10 all-time biggest exit deals for SA startups? [Digital All Stars]

“I think the monopoly on innovation that Silicon Valley had is largely over and I think they’re starting to recognise it as well which is why you’re seeing many of those VCs opening up other places, in China and India and elsewhere,” he told a crowd of close to a thousand, who attended a Startup Grind Cape Town event at Workshop 17 in the city last night.

Van Biljon also questioned whether Silicon Valley will remain the world’s leading hub for tech innovation.

I think the monopoly on innovation that Silicon Valley had is largely over, says Willem van Biljon

“Is there something in Silicon Valley that is just so magical and so different that you can’t replicate it elsewhere? And I think that was true for a long time. I don’t think it’s true anymore,” he said.

He added that the lure of Silicon Valley for many is that it attracts innovative people who want to be part of a community and feel like they are making a difference in the world.

“People that go to Silicon Valley to do a startup there, they just think they are part of the people who are changing the world,” he says.

Van Biljon is still in the entrepreneurship game. He says he has invested in a “couple of small things” himself. But why after starting so many ventures himself has he moved to work for someone else?

“I like building big things and Takealot is a big interesting business with lots of scale challenges, lots of deep technical challenges which are great fun to be part of,” he says.

Ultimately, he says, the world can expect to see plenty more innovation. “All of the innovation that we think we’ve accomplished, really is minute against what is coming. We’ve only just started. The car after all is only about 120 years old.”

Featured image: Willem van Biljon (Stephen Timm)

  • Alfalfa Ponono

    The irony of this article’s headline – especially in terms of the South African tech landscape should not be lost to the editor! While espousing Silicon Valley’s loss of monopoly, a geographical monopoly is been created here in South Africa – most of the tech start-up activity is based in the Cape, with limited activities or incubation seminars being held in other parts of the country!!! Is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black?? Creativity is not limited by geography! I hope my comment can be seen as an eye opener with respect to widen the net in terms of prospective entrepreneurs who lack the resources to pitch up at an event that might be quite far from their home-base!!

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