Chasing dreams

As a follow-up to my last post on Beijing investing I wanted to reflect a little on the major difference about the US that I’ve observed from traveling the world. Similar to Rich Barton’s observations from his trip to Beijing I found some interesting changes about where people are chasing dreams and I think that will impact where business gets done in the world in the long run. It doesn’t seem to matter where you go in the world outside of the US, there is a culture of preserving social norms, religion, and ancient culture. For example, I spent Easter in Athens and nearly everyone celebrates Easter there. I found it odd when I was in Beijing that all of their cultural relics are for the most part modern rebuilds. Yes including the Great Wall (having significant portions rebuilt in the 80s). On the many islands in the south pacific many native traditions are used in celebration despite an enormous amount of Christian influence.

When it comes to the United States though the social norm is pursuing dreams, obsessions, and passions. Not that everyone in the US pursues their dreams, but there is a belief here that those things can be obtained in the US. That same belief about the ability to obtain those things permeates throughout the world and when dreamers the world over get frustrated with their own cultural norms they run to the United States because our laws, culture, and people all recognize that chasing dreams is normal and there is no expectation that people will not obtain those dreams.

I’ve written in the past about failure and how our culture should embrace it more. Learning from failure is the art of being human and it is an important part of living in this world. It is funny to me that despite our culture of chasing dreams we don’t have an equal culture of embracing failure. Instead those dreamers that choose to go on their conquests are stuck learning the hard way that despite our cultural encouragement, there is also a cultural discouragement that was taught at a young age. That getting the wrong answer is bad.

I applaud the dreamers outside of the US that strive to chase those dreams in their own countries. We need more countries driving true innovative competition. We have seen Korea and Japan both find incredible expansion in the last century. I think China will be next and Xiaomi rebranding to just Mi is a huge step in this direction.

Our government has a role, as do each of us as neighbors, as voters, as employees, and as friends. It is interesting to look at the hard data of entrepreneurship in the US. The Kauffman foundation has a report out on this particular topic. Some of the interesting facts they bring up are that:

  • More than 40 percent of the Fortune 500 companies in 2010 were founded by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant.
  • Immigrants were almost twice as likely to start businesses in 2012 as native-born Americans. (remember I said our culture supports chasing dreams but not everyone born in the USA wants to chase dreams)
  • 24 of the top 50 venture-backed ┬ácompanies in America in 2011 had at least one foreign-born founder.
  • Immigrant founders from top venture-backed firms have created an average of approximately 150 jobs per company in the United States.


The last one to me is fascinating. I am working with John Sechrest on mapping the economic impact of the Seattle Angel Conference and am curious how close we’ll be to 150 new jobs created per company.

The real question though is that if our culture encourages chasing dreams, what is stopping you from chasing yours?

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: