America has always been a land of dreams. Conventional history tells us how Christopher Columbus accidentally discovered the continent following a dream to discover a new route to Asia. Half a millennia before that Norseman Leif Ericson landed in America, chasing dreams, riches and adventure. A millennia later, thousands will sail past the Statue of Liberty with the promise of a new life and living the American dream. After all, what’s America without individuals who have forever sought to challenge the status quo, a nation born in rebellion, an identity forged out of a burning desire to reach for the stars? America came to embody the spirit of adventure and entrepreneurship, a spirit which wouldn’t have existed without the average American’s audacity to dream big.
When the first immigrants stepped off the boats in the New World, they had before them a nation still vastly unexplored, with boundless possibilities and resources. The next few decades would see America grow at a pace, hitherto unseen in the annals of human civilization; a non-colonizing and rather reticent nation would grow into THE global behemoth in every way possible. Ordinary, self-made men like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Ford- men who were not born with silver spoons- went on to build industrial empires in a growing America. But as the economy would mature, growth would inevitably slow down, while it would become increasingly tougher for new generations to find the same level of success with their entrepreneurial ventures as their predecessors did. And just like that, 21st century America would become a tough place for the average American looking to think outside the box, bring dreams to a fruition through sheer hard work and enterprise. A crucial third component would also come into the picture- the market.
In any growing economy, the market is always upwardly mobile, with newer potential customers getting added every year. It’s the simple demand and supply principle, and aspirational demand keeps matching the supply. For a budding business to succeed, this is perhaps the best climate. However, as the economy grows more mature and hence saturated, the pond basically gets smaller, since the supply keeps on increasing. In such a scenario, only the very best or unique have a chance to make it. The rest fall by the wayside. This leads to stagnation and prevents independent ideas from blossoming as established players use their monetary clout to corner the existing market. Premium talent also becomes more expensive and generally out of reach of the smaller players. America, just like other developed economies, has seen its economy mature and stagnate, taking the existing market away from everyone save the biggest of the players. What does the average American do in such a scenario? Is she/he to stop dreaming?
Off course, disruptors will still crop up from time to time- ideas like Uber, Netflix etc. were truly futuristic and foresighted. However, they were also a one in a million idea. What about the rest? Competition is wonderful. But forced competition due to a reduction in opportunities actually ends up stifling talent. Investors want to play safe, and the average layperson finds it difficult to think outside the box.
James Oliver had worked for 30 years in the Chicago PD in the organized crimes division. Over the course of his long service to the people of Chicago, he had been extremely disturbed by rising gun violence, especially by incidents of gun violence in schools. In his own words, “We are a better country than have 4-5-6 year olds getting killed. I think we should do something about that….”. When he retired from the police department, James started working on an idea of a product that could detect guns early and help in rapid response of the law enforcement agencies to minimize casualties and bring the perpetrators to justice. There was also the problem of effectively identifying the perpetrator and bringing him/her to justice. In stressful situations, especially during bank heists and shootings, the reigning confusion and the time it took for law enforcement to respond, there was always the danger of the perpetrator getting away. In fact, James referred to incidents where the police would actually pass the perpetrator while on its way to the crime scene and be none the wiser. After all, nobody would know what he/she looked like!
Accordingly, James started developing what he called a “Gun detection, rapid response” system, which once developed would enable a 911 operator to “see and hear” the crime scene live within a tenth of a second, enabling rapid deployment of law enforcement and minimizing damage. It would also effectively identify the perpetrator and help bring him/her to justice swiftly and efficiently. However, planning is one thing. Implementation is quite something else, as James was about to find out.
“There’s no way that a person, a middle class person like me, who would have…whose got a great idea, could take it to the next level……..I couldn’t have got it to the next step. It would have been virtually impossible to hire someone locally. They are going to talk to a company, but they aren’t going to talk to an individual. Only way I could have gotten to this point was hire engineer from India. Otherwise I couldn’t (have) got here.”
James Oliver, CEO, Oliver Technologies and former Chicago PD office
James quickly found out that the talent required to develop his product, although available locally, was completely out of reach of an average middle class American. Not only were local resources extremely expensive, worse, they did not even take him seriously. Frustrated, James looked for resources offshore and that’s how the partnership with Virtual Employee came into being. Initially starting with one embedded systems engineer, James’ team in Virtual Employee gradually grew, and his idea gradually came to life. In the process, James was able to save around a whopping quarter of a million dollars through his decision to outsource. What he also found was that the VE engineers not only met his expectations, but went far beyond.
James isn’t alone. There are millions of Americans like him who have similar dreams, dreams if given a chance, would only change lives and hence the society for the better. There was once a time when a booming economy used to accord that opportunity to anyone who had the courage and audacity to dream big. However, times change and we do with them. Outsourcing is nothing but a continuation of that tradition of innovation, of making dreams possible, of bringing ideas to life. In a truly globalized world, if someone sitting in Delhi or Bangalore isn’t partnering with someone sitting in Chicago or Trenton to bring a beautiful idea to life, then it’s truly tragic.
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