Trying to start a company as an immigrant can be difficult in some places, but not in Silicon Valley.
“I’m an immigrant here, but the funny thing is I never felt like an immigrant,” said Pramod Sharma, an immigrant from India who co-founded a start-up called Osmo.
Located in northern California, Silicon Valley is a melting-pot of different cultures, languages and technology companies. Palo Alto-based start-up Osmo reflects that diversity.
“We’re always striving to get diversity from a cultural background because the product we’re building is for kids, and they are everywhere trying to learn,” Sharma said.
Osmo’s latest toy teaches children as young as five the basic concepts of coding.
“What’s important is 'What’s your idea? What’s your thought process?',” Sharma said “Coding — you can think of it as communication between machine and you.”
To play Osmo’s coding toy, children need to put commands together with physical blocks in front of an iPad. The camera on the iPad reads the instructions from the blocks which tell an animated creature in the iPad what to do, including walking, jumping and eating strawberries.
Hayley Chu and her brother are testing the toy. They picked up the blocks and started creating commands.
“There was no instruction manual that they read, they just went right in and started playing with it,” said the children’s mother, Rochelle Chu. “It’s good because it introduces it to them in a very friendly way where they are able to experiment and play and not be afraid.”
Sharma said not being afraid to experiment is also true of the start-up culture in Silicon Valley.
“How do we become creative with a few of the resources to innovate? That makes it challenging. What makes it fun is you have a lot of freedom. You can do almost anything,” said Sharma.
He said Osmo's coding toy will have global appeal because learning how to communicate with a computer transcends differences in language and culture. The language of technology and computer also connects the people from around the world who work and live in Silicon Valley.
“ I think my experience has been it matters a lot more on what your ideas are, what your thought process is [rather] than how you look, what language you speak, what accent you have,” said Sharma.
A combination of a diversity of cultures and ideas, and the freedom to innovate, may be why engineers and computer scientists worldwide are drawn to Silicon Valley.