Looking at US publications this weekend one of the biggest stories was the vilification of Eduardo Saverin, co-founder of Facebook who is probably best known to people through the film The Social Network. Saverin is a Brazilian by birth who left San Paulo for Miami as a child.
Saverin left the US in 2009 and renounced his citizenship before the Facebook IPO, mostly for tax reasons, but also because his business interests are now based in Asia and Brazil. The vilification is for a number of reasons:
- Saverin is part of the one per cent dodging taxes
- The US ‘made’ him what he is
- He is challenging the American Dream myth
The last point is something that I find the most interesting. I have had a number of friends who where told by investors in their start-ups that they had to move to Silicon Valley, despite the fact that they had done all the hard work outside the US – because the Silicon Valley valley sub-set of the American dream mono-myth has that tight a hold of the tech sector. It explains the hub and spoke operations of lots of businesses from Kraft to Apple since American pre-eminence and expertise is pre-ordained if you buy into the American dream.
Saverin is a high-profile version of another archetype that is developing; migration by immigrants away from the US; for exaqmple Robin Li worked in the US for Infoseek before returning to China founding Baidu and beating Google in the middle kingdom. What Li and Saverin have done, so are lots of other smart professionals who have an immigrant identity with a steady stream of people going back to Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India and Korea.
Part of this is the process of moving on from an American century to an Asian century and part of it is rejecting a challenge to a core part of what it means to be American – the American dream.
Being Irish, I have immigration in my blood, my Mum and Dad came over to the UK before I was born and I went back and forth to the home country. I have family in South Boston. What was interesting about the current financial crisis is that my young well-educated cousins have not gone to the US where they would have assistance from the wider family bedding in; but to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Dubai. The US wasn’t seen as part of their evoked set of desirable countries.
Which got me thinking, if the American dream is no longer alluring, how should America change the message around it’s country brand?