We can by ourselves constitute the community of men, but it can never be, by its own strength, a fully fraternal community nor exceed its own limits, that is to say become a truly universal community “(Benoît XVI, Caritas in veritate, 34).

Behind the success of Silicon Valley lies an alchemy that many regions have sought to reproduce. But alchemy cannot be detailed like a grid of criteria. It supposes a breath. This is also a first methodological clue. If we wish to become prophetic actors of the social doctrine of the Church, we must find new life, rely on the Holy Spirit.

More prosaically, there are nevertheless a few determining factors.

The first was Stanford University which, under the leadership of Professor Fred Terman, formalized the Honors Cooperative Program in 1954. Allowing engineers to be part-time students and entrepreneurs, this program attracted many entrepreneurial adventures who came to settle on the vast lands belonging to the university, to the point that the population doubled in the 1950s. philosophical and theological schools were the anchor points of the medieval revolution, Stanford was (and still is) the pivot of Silicon Valley. Every adventure begins with knowledge.

The second success factor is access to financing, which has historically taken two complementary forms: Darpa and venture capital. Darpa is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, an American military organization responsible for the development of emerging technologies, which financed the genesis of start-ups, notably those of Stanford’s Honors Cooperative Program, through military orders. Venture capital is this system of capital financing which was facilitated by the Small Business Investment Act, accrediting investment companies (venture capital funds) often supported by the government, which remunerate their risk thanks to the liquidity of their investment and significant returns. More recently, while the cost of creating a start-up has decreased significantly (notably thanks to open source), incubators have appeared like Y Combinator, which intervene more upstream through training, conferences and access to a network of experts, customers and partners who will promote acceleration.

Silicon Valley is an ecosystem, a community. In the 11th century, the Church and the monasteries played this community role of investor or incubator, either through orders or through the circulation of money, training and mutual aid between the foundations. Wasn’t Clairvaux, which had created 341 “girls’ start-ups” at the death of Saint Bernard, an astonishing form of incubator? Cathedrals were also immense sources of entrepreneurial innovation. Expansion depends on deployment capacity and its organization.

The third essential factor is fertile cooperation.

Silicon Valley is based on a small area. This entire ecosystem made up of universities, start-ups, consultants and larger groups is concentrated over a few kilometers. This proximity facilitates exchanges and cooperation between the different actors. We call this a “network”.

And this network welcomes all those who wish to come and innovate within it; the share of people of foreign origin working in Silicon Valley is out of proportion with the rest of the country. Silicon Valley operates as an open network, like monasteries and the Church as a whole. Since the first apostles, the latter has been built as a universal network of seekers of God. Saint Paul organized and federated his network through his letters; the first Christians in the Roman era lived longer than the pagans, because they had established a system of social assistance; the subsidiary functioning of the Church is an organization open to cooperation and meetings; the different congregations exchange with each other in a fraternal spirit, although rivalries exist (Silicon Valley describes this attitude as “coopetition”); all the faithful share the desire to work jointly for the advent of the civilization of love. In the same way, the principle of accompaniment in the Community of Emmanuel, and more broadly this idea that one brother relies on another brother, is a concrete reality, on a small scale, of community cooperation beneficial:

Accompaniment is the place for reflection on the way in which this tension is experienced between a life truly engaged in the world and at the same time given to God!. The creation of a work is a matter of cooperation, and requires the mutual assistance of a dynamic and united ecosystem.

Finally, there remains the unspeakable factor. A love of risk, an entrepreneurial and pioneering spirit, creative joy, collective enthusiasm, a desire to participate in something greater than oneself.

At the heart of Silicon Valley’s success is a missionary approach. Certainly, the government pushed its historical development out of economic and political interest, but the mission to change the world was indeed present. The mission is an adventure. An adventure experienced by the first disciples who left to evangelize the Middle East; a founding epic experienced by the evangelizing monks of Europe, both in the east (Saint Basil) and in the west (Saint Benedict); an immensely risky undertaking that the missionaries of the new world (America and Asia), like the Jesuits, but not only experienced with pugnacity; a challenge experienced by all those who work openly in our current historical situation. The unspeakable factor is the missionary will which finds its answer to “for what?” or “for whom?”. “It is by will that we deserve and lead the praiseworthy and happy life,” Saint Augustine tells us in his Treatise on Free Will.

Silicon Valley didn’t invent anything, but it illustrated everything. It illustrated a methodological missionary transmission, implemented by a community of men and women, which the heralds of the Web have updated in their own way… and by establishing another system of values.

This text is an extract from the book “GOD, THE COMPANY, GOOGLE AND ME” written by Thomas JAUFFRET.

We invite you to read the following article “The humanity of design thinking“.

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