5 lessons for local creators, from Silicon Valley and beyond

5 lessons for local creators, from Silicon Valley and beyond
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Editor’s note: Gurtej Singh is a mobile technologist in Charlotte.

My dad was born into a small village in 1950s India. As he grew up, there was no running water or reliable electricity. There was only fertile soil, faith, and proud families making a living as best they could.

Fast forward to 2016, when I demonstrated for the first time to my dad how Siri works on an Apple Watch. I raised my wrist and directly asked the computer program for a few pieces of information, from the weather in Australia to when JFK was president. Siri sprang back with all of the correct answers in her friendly voice. My dad’s jaw dropped. His eyes widened. “Oh my God,” he muttered. A look of both awe and alarm covered his face as he reminisced over the rise of technology in humans’ lives, from it meaning nothing to it becoming everything.

I came into my own as a software engineer with family experiences like that fresh in my mind, coupled with a lifelong desire to build and create something, anything useful.

Today, I’m happy to be developing mobile apps. And fortunately for me, I was able to nerd-out and meet a bunch of other like-minded creators at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2016) a few weeks ago.

The conference was held in San Francisco, part of Silicon Valley, where things just feel different.

What was it about this place and these people that allowed the coolest stuff to be made?

And what was missing from Charlotte that kept us from being just as innovative?

I talked to new acquaintances and old friends living out there to get a feel. My conversations with them helped me come up with a list of ideas not just for the techies, but for all local creators to help foster a more inspiring atmosphere in our hometown.


Stay open and collaborate

The culture in Silicon Valley is very open. The ideas of diversity, inclusion, and collaboration are huge in everyone’s daily lives. I walked by a Blue Bottle coffee shop and heard founders of a startup discuss their ideas. Murals and street art made my teams of artists are dotted all over San Francisco.

Both here and there a large amount of local events and meetups are happening on whatever subject you can imagine. Put yourself out there, meet people, do cool things with those people. It’s a simple idea, but worth noting.


Search for autonomy

Like many of you working and living in Charlotte, employment through financial services firms is the reason I have food on the table, and I’m truly grateful for that. But I still feel something pulling at me, the need for something more, away from the security and away from the decades-old institutions (whether they be cultural, corporate, or otherwise).

Am I crazy? Maybe.

Will questioning my sanity stop me from feeling this way? Nope.

It’s my own personal need for autonomy, to create and build something up on my own time and on my own terms. It’s one of the feelings that got me to write this article, and the same feeling that pushes many startup founders, musicians, artists, etc. to create something great.

Act on your ideas

It’s been said time and time again there’s a boom happening in Charlotte.

There’s new businesses, new people, new everything. Outsider investors are pumping money into our economy left and right. I love this city, but I know it’s still trying to find its identity as our citizens wade through a sea of constant change. One way to help solidify what Charlotte is really about is for us as locals to contribute to the community.

I’m not asking anyone to quit their jobs, but I am asking for folks to act on whatever creative ideas they have and have fun with it. Maybe organize a meetup, build a website, or show off your art. In Silicon Valley, it seemed like everyone thought they had a world-changing idea, and my young skepticism could only bat away enough marketing talk before I realized that some of those people might actually be right.

Have faith

I’m not talking about a faith in a higher power (although I bet it helps). I mean faith in yourself, faith in your abilities to make something that can reach people. Channel your inner Kanye and move mountains until someone has what you made in their hands.

Build Charlotte up


I have good friends who left the Carolinas to make things and chase their dreams elsewhere.

They did this because they felt the opportunities to do what they wanted to do just weren’t available at home.

I can even admit to myself, the culture and general vibe around me in California had me in a trance. I wanted to be a part of it, but I didn’t want to live there.

In Charlotte, I’m able to wave to strangers on the street without feeling like a creep and I don’t think I have to give that up. We can make things happen here, and you already see great examples of it with local startups, the local art scene and music venues. I’m asking for us to keep pushing. Charlotte’s still an underdog in the national scene, but we have the power to rise up. So I urge you all to create. Create something new, something improved, something that betters lives somehow. And please don’t think you have to run away from Charlotte to do it.

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