How to compete with Silicon Valley

I just saw this excellent rant on what makes Silicon Valley special: its people.

I disagree with several of its other claims. First of all, that it's just a parking lot. That's true if you look at it from one angle. But, it has several Fry's. And TONS of infrastructure that makes it easy for geeks to get going.

Also, getting geeks to move away from concentrations of other geeks is INCREDIBLY hard. I'd love to move to Montana, for instance, but there's no way I would do that. I'd be bored there in a few weeks. The TechRanch there is fun, but sorry, when I'm down in Silicon Valley there are just so many people to talk to and so many interesting companies doing interesting things.

That said, there are several places in the world I keep hearing about: China and India. Look for the next Silicon Valley to appear there. Why? For exactly the reasons Paul gave: people.

I just added Paul to my reading list. Good stuff.

Comments

  1. ALOHA ROBERT,
    I WAS IN THE PROCESS OF BLOG UPLOAD TO ROJO WHEN I CAME TO YOUR PAGE.
    I FOR ONE AM SO VERY THANKFUL FOR SILICON VALLEY. (EVEN THOUGH I DONT KNOW ON A MAP WHERE IT IS)
    IF IT WAS NOT FOR THERE WHERE COMPUTER STARTED. I WOULD NOT BE ON MY DELL NOW WRITING YOU.

    ONE MAN SAID YOU NEED A DIFFERENT INTREST.
    YOU WILL LIKE MY INTREST, FENGSHUI.
    I NOTED YOUR MENTION OF CHINA WHERE FENGSHUI STARTED ABOUT 6000 YEARS BEFORE DELL.
    WOULD YOU LIKE TO HELP BETA TEST OUR PAGE AND TELL FRIENDS IN SILICON VALLEY ALSO?
    NOT TO WORRY OUR BLOG HAS PROOFREAD BY PROFESSIONAL TO MAKE IT EASY TO READ.
    I HOPE YOU HAVE TIME TO TAKE NOTICE IN SOMETHING YOU HAVE INTREST IN, FENGSHUI WILL FIND YOU AS I JUST DID. GOOD QI CAN TRAVEL ANY LENGTH LIKE THE WORLD WIDE WEB. WE HOPE TO INTREST YOU, AND LOOK FROWARD TO YOUR RESPONSE.
    ALOHA FROM MAUI,
    HONG AI LI
    PHOTOGRAPHER

  2. ALOHA ROBERT,
    I WAS IN THE PROCESS OF BLOG UPLOAD TO ROJO WHEN I CAME TO YOUR PAGE.
    I FOR ONE AM SO VERY THANKFUL FOR SILICON VALLEY. (EVEN THOUGH I DONT KNOW ON A MAP WHERE IT IS)
    IF IT WAS NOT FOR THERE WHERE COMPUTER STARTED. I WOULD NOT BE ON MY DELL NOW WRITING YOU.

    ONE MAN SAID YOU NEED A DIFFERENT INTREST.
    YOU WILL LIKE MY INTREST, FENGSHUI.
    I NOTED YOUR MENTION OF CHINA WHERE FENGSHUI STARTED ABOUT 6000 YEARS BEFORE DELL.
    WOULD YOU LIKE TO HELP BETA TEST OUR PAGE AND TELL FRIENDS IN SILICON VALLEY ALSO?
    NOT TO WORRY OUR BLOG HAS PROOFREAD BY PROFESSIONAL TO MAKE IT EASY TO READ.
    I HOPE YOU HAVE TIME TO TAKE NOTICE IN SOMETHING YOU HAVE INTREST IN, FENGSHUI WILL FIND YOU AS I JUST DID. GOOD QI CAN TRAVEL ANY LENGTH LIKE THE WORLD WIDE WEB. WE HOPE TO INTREST YOU, AND LOOK FROWARD TO YOUR RESPONSE.
    ALOHA FROM MAUI,
    HONG AI LI
    PHOTOGRAPHER

  3. I have also recently been wondering about what it takes to build another silicon valley. To me, as a non-valleyer, the one thing I feel I miss the most is sharing knowledge and networking (that’s just a disguise for people!).

    I wrote about this today, actually, on my blog:
    http://www.iseff.com/2006/05/essay-second-life-as-new-silicon.html

    I came to the conclusion that, while it may be very difficult to build a physical new silicon valley, we should begin to use technology available — in this case, Second Life — to try to spread some of the key strengths of Silicon Valley (the sharing and networking and people).

    Ian

  4. I have also recently been wondering about what it takes to build another silicon valley. To me, as a non-valleyer, the one thing I feel I miss the most is sharing knowledge and networking (that’s just a disguise for people!).

    I wrote about this today, actually, on my blog:
    http://www.iseff.com/2006/05/essay-second-life-as-new-silicon.html

    I came to the conclusion that, while it may be very difficult to build a physical new silicon valley, we should begin to use technology available — in this case, Second Life — to try to spread some of the key strengths of Silicon Valley (the sharing and networking and people).

    Ian

  5. You weren’t already reading Paul Graham? But but but….he’s like required reading!

    Him and that Scoble guy. And the Winer dude. And Spolsky. Tell me you’re reading Spolsky? And while we’re at it – Damian Mulley and Piaras Kelly. Om Malik too. And of course Guy Kawasaki.

    These are the most interesting blogs. And no they ain’t paid me to say that. And if you’re not on that list….well…I probably read your blog but can’t spell your name :)

    I wouldn’t bother with that MJ guy from Infurious. He’s crap :)

  6. You weren’t already reading Paul Graham? But but but….he’s like required reading!

    Him and that Scoble guy. And the Winer dude. And Spolsky. Tell me you’re reading Spolsky? And while we’re at it – Damian Mulley and Piaras Kelly. Om Malik too. And of course Guy Kawasaki.

    These are the most interesting blogs. And no they ain’t paid me to say that. And if you’re not on that list….well…I probably read your blog but can’t spell your name :)

    I wouldn’t bother with that MJ guy from Infurious. He’s crap :)

  7. Hey Robert Dude – why don’t u pay Bangalore (India) a visit sometime? NOT EXACTLY like SV – but pretty close – u find nobody but Geeks down there! :)

  8. Hey Robert Dude – why don’t u pay Bangalore (India) a visit sometime? NOT EXACTLY like SV – but pretty close – u find nobody but Geeks down there! :)

  9. Hmm

    I think he mises the presence of a lot of aerospace and defence companies in SV and the big fat defence contracts. and no mention of HP Sacrilege!

  10. Hmm

    I think he mises the presence of a lot of aerospace and defence companies in SV and the big fat defence contracts. and no mention of HP Sacrilege!

  11. First of all, to my fellow Americans, I just want you all to know that ManBearPig is real, I’m super cereal. Secondly, this guy is talking out of his butt. He’s apparently forgotten that Gateway, the king of all computer companies, is in the middle of noplace special. Same goes for Micron in Idaho, the semiconductor companies in Northern New England, General Motors in Michigan and so on. After you all see my film, you will realize that these technology hubs are not important given the fact that we’re going to be wiped off the face of the earth by both the environment and ManBearPig. I’m super cereal.

  12. First of all, to my fellow Americans, I just want you all to know that ManBearPig is real, I’m super cereal. Secondly, this guy is talking out of his butt. He’s apparently forgotten that Gateway, the king of all computer companies, is in the middle of noplace special. Same goes for Micron in Idaho, the semiconductor companies in Northern New England, General Motors in Michigan and so on. After you all see my film, you will realize that these technology hubs are not important given the fact that we’re going to be wiped off the face of the earth by both the environment and ManBearPig. I’m super cereal.

  13. I wonder though how much of this “I love SV” attitude really has anything to do with the place itself or the fact that you were born there, grew up there, when to school there (and a lot of “firsts” in your life happened there)? Do you still refer to it as “home”?

    Anyway, I hope the next few weeks of your life are better than the last few weeks.

  14. I wonder though how much of this “I love SV” attitude really has anything to do with the place itself or the fact that you were born there, grew up there, when to school there (and a lot of “firsts” in your life happened there)? Do you still refer to it as “home”?

    Anyway, I hope the next few weeks of your life are better than the last few weeks.

  15. While there are a lots of people in Silicon valley, i also finds that its interesting that there is a lot of echo-boxing there too.

    Like how many me too web 2.0 companies are being funded. It harkens back to the last bubble. It seems to be that there is no fresh thinking on business models.

    It seems to me that a place like Livingston Montana has more ‘real’ people whose problems can be solved by smart developers. If its a feature useful to someone there I guarantee you have got a winner. Plus that area of the world is amazingly beatiful. Surely that would provide for inspiration.

    But yes, a lack of people. Like Philly here, somewhat. Thats a problem. I suspect that will change though..the demographic of lot of mountain towns is changing as people move there to connect with the earth..take Durango, Bozeman, Salt-Lake City and Boulder for example in rough order of increasing techiness…

  16. While there are a lots of people in Silicon valley, i also finds that its interesting that there is a lot of echo-boxing there too.

    Like how many me too web 2.0 companies are being funded. It harkens back to the last bubble. It seems to be that there is no fresh thinking on business models.

    It seems to me that a place like Livingston Montana has more ‘real’ people whose problems can be solved by smart developers. If its a feature useful to someone there I guarantee you have got a winner. Plus that area of the world is amazingly beatiful. Surely that would provide for inspiration.

    But yes, a lack of people. Like Philly here, somewhat. Thats a problem. I suspect that will change though..the demographic of lot of mountain towns is changing as people move there to connect with the earth..take Durango, Bozeman, Salt-Lake City and Boulder for example in rough order of increasing techiness…

  17. Serge, no, you don’t need to be in Silicon Valley to do things, but some things are easier there. First there’s the money that’s available. Second, there’s the ready supply of geeks who can help you build things. Third, there’s all the other people who can help you (lawyers, accountants, marketers, etc). And there’s tons of infrastructure (it’s easy to get a server farm setup there, while other places it isn’t as easy).

    Brian: I do love the place cause I grew up there, but there’s a lot more to it. There is no other place in the world with so many high-tech headquarters and no other place I’ve visited comes close to as high a quantity of geeks.

  18. Serge, no, you don’t need to be in Silicon Valley to do things, but some things are easier there. First there’s the money that’s available. Second, there’s the ready supply of geeks who can help you build things. Third, there’s all the other people who can help you (lawyers, accountants, marketers, etc). And there’s tons of infrastructure (it’s easy to get a server farm setup there, while other places it isn’t as easy).

    Brian: I do love the place cause I grew up there, but there’s a lot more to it. There is no other place in the world with so many high-tech headquarters and no other place I’ve visited comes close to as high a quantity of geeks.

  19. I don’t understand the desire to be so close to geeks.
    Personally, I grew up in “SV” and it’s not the same place I grew up in. One fella had it right back there. The price of houses. All of California in general.. Try raising a family here. It sucks. The public schools suck, the traffic sucks, the taxes suck, the gas prices are among the highest in the country, ever go to the mall on a Friday night? It takes 45 minutes to park anywhere. Try taking the kids to the zoo or aquarium where they are exposed to freako’s and people pretending to be stuff they’re not. And the mentality of some folks around here, that if nooone is physically getting hurt, then anything goes. I mean yeah there’s a ton of geeks and places to work, and I love my network of people I have worked with (that includes your bro Alex) and my job I have now is the best I have ever had. But the truth is, I’m outta here. I’m moving the family to another state in August. Anyway, So where’d you go to school Scoble? I went to Del Mar class of ’89.. Later..

  20. I don’t understand the desire to be so close to geeks.
    Personally, I grew up in “SV” and it’s not the same place I grew up in. One fella had it right back there. The price of houses. All of California in general.. Try raising a family here. It sucks. The public schools suck, the traffic sucks, the taxes suck, the gas prices are among the highest in the country, ever go to the mall on a Friday night? It takes 45 minutes to park anywhere. Try taking the kids to the zoo or aquarium where they are exposed to freako’s and people pretending to be stuff they’re not. And the mentality of some folks around here, that if nooone is physically getting hurt, then anything goes. I mean yeah there’s a ton of geeks and places to work, and I love my network of people I have worked with (that includes your bro Alex) and my job I have now is the best I have ever had. But the truth is, I’m outta here. I’m moving the family to another state in August. Anyway, So where’d you go to school Scoble? I went to Del Mar class of ’89.. Later..

  21. It’s weird that there are so many nerds there. I wouldn’t go there precisely because it is a giant parking lot.

  22. It’s weird that there are so many nerds there. I wouldn’t go there precisely because it is a giant parking lot.

  23. Prospect, class of 83.

    Agreed on a whole lot of that stuff. But, I like being around geeks too. Why? Cause they create things that I find useful. I met lots of creative and interesting people in Montana too, but they don’t create things I find useful. Just a different world, that’s all.

  24. Prospect, class of 83.

    Agreed on a whole lot of that stuff. But, I like being around geeks too. Why? Cause they create things that I find useful. I met lots of creative and interesting people in Montana too, but they don’t create things I find useful. Just a different world, that’s all.

  25. Prospect 83? Do you know a guy called Keith Hollar? I know he was a wrestler. Cool guy.. anyway small world, we probably know common people.. If this is off-topic, go ahead and delete it… take it easy..

  26. Prospect 83? Do you know a guy called Keith Hollar? I know he was a wrestler. Cool guy.. anyway small world, we probably know common people.. If this is off-topic, go ahead and delete it… take it easy..

  27. The post raises some interesting aspects, particularly around people.
    One difference between Silicon Valley and, say, New York, is the percent of optimists vs. pessimists.
    A former colleague moved from New York to (southern) California a few decades ago. When I asked him the difference, he replied “In California, when I tell people about my idea for a business, they all root for it. They tell me how good an idea it is and offer to introduce me to others who might help. In New York, when I mention the same concept, all I hear is that it will never take off, there’s too much competition, etc.”
    New Yorkers are natural skeptics. So, while California’s culture will foster more entrepreneurs, I’d staff my due diligence team with New Yorkers.

  28. The post raises some interesting aspects, particularly around people.
    One difference between Silicon Valley and, say, New York, is the percent of optimists vs. pessimists.
    A former colleague moved from New York to (southern) California a few decades ago. When I asked him the difference, he replied “In California, when I tell people about my idea for a business, they all root for it. They tell me how good an idea it is and offer to introduce me to others who might help. In New York, when I mention the same concept, all I hear is that it will never take off, there’s too much competition, etc.”
    New Yorkers are natural skeptics. So, while California’s culture will foster more entrepreneurs, I’d staff my due diligence team with New Yorkers.

  29. John: that name sounds familiar, but isn’t bringing up any memories.

    Laurent: possibly! But I didn’t see the concentrations of geeks that leads me to believe a new Silicon Valley is possible in Europe. That said your skiing and hottubs have many positive attributes! :-)

  30. John: that name sounds familiar, but isn’t bringing up any memories.

    Laurent: possibly! But I didn’t see the concentrations of geeks that leads me to believe a new Silicon Valley is possible in Europe. That said your skiing and hottubs have many positive attributes! :-)

  31. Robert…geeks, money, server farms, and accountants are available *everywhere*.

    The only thing SV has is proximity, for saving travel time, and bandwidth. There’s massive bandwidth in SV all over the place.

    That’s not to say you can’t get bandwidth in other places, but it’s easier to get there.

  32. Robert…geeks, money, server farms, and accountants are available *everywhere*.

    The only thing SV has is proximity, for saving travel time, and bandwidth. There’s massive bandwidth in SV all over the place.

    That’s not to say you can’t get bandwidth in other places, but it’s easier to get there.

  33. This is a great question. The challenge is in mindset, people who share the passion and approach. I believe that true Innovation can not be taught in a school. Certainly there are many different aspects in terms of methodology and approach. But this is truely about passion, tenacity and surrounding yourself with dreamers.

    Since the days of the goldrush in California all of these things have been true.

    As well the weather breads a certain style. Just like Seattle and Vancouver are different from the south left coast.

    But largely I fall back to the people who inhabit the place and their style. Innovation is an art not a science.

  34. This is a great question. The challenge is in mindset, people who share the passion and approach. I believe that true Innovation can not be taught in a school. Certainly there are many different aspects in terms of methodology and approach. But this is truely about passion, tenacity and surrounding yourself with dreamers.

    Since the days of the goldrush in California all of these things have been true.

    As well the weather breads a certain style. Just like Seattle and Vancouver are different from the south left coast.

    But largely I fall back to the people who inhabit the place and their style. Innovation is an art not a science.

  35. It’s just what a needed to hear tonight as I am trying to write — and I am inspired by your sense of stepping back from the things that make complaints to some… in order to look through another lens for a better view. It’s a bit like walking into the castle of this blog and lokking out tower after tower to see many different views. Thanks for the thoughtful landscapes that make it happen!

    Brain Based Business

  36. It’s just what a needed to hear tonight as I am trying to write — and I am inspired by your sense of stepping back from the things that make complaints to some… in order to look through another lens for a better view. It’s a bit like walking into the castle of this blog and lokking out tower after tower to see many different views. Thanks for the thoughtful landscapes that make it happen!

    Brain Based Business

  37. SV geeks are best? I disagree – they are mostly arrogant without cause is all. I’ve worked with many better.

    Furthermore – not to rock your world too much – but as of last census, Denver Colorado had more programmers per capita and the quality of everything was higher. Of course, all those developers were working on real business systems that have to do work rather than dot bomb flameouts that just waste money.

    Also, SV cost of living sucks, terrain sucks, lack of culture sucks, salaries as measured in median home prices are lowest anywhere and everything you can buy at Frys you can order from Amazon or someone.

    SV is a lousy place to start a tech business.

  38. SV geeks are best? I disagree – they are mostly arrogant without cause is all. I’ve worked with many better.

    Furthermore – not to rock your world too much – but as of last census, Denver Colorado had more programmers per capita and the quality of everything was higher. Of course, all those developers were working on real business systems that have to do work rather than dot bomb flameouts that just waste money.

    Also, SV cost of living sucks, terrain sucks, lack of culture sucks, salaries as measured in median home prices are lowest anywhere and everything you can buy at Frys you can order from Amazon or someone.

    SV is a lousy place to start a tech business.

  39. [...] Scoble points out Paul Graham’s essay — turns out there’s more than one — one creating “silicon valleys” elsewhere. Some of the points are downright laughable, such as it might be a lost cause to try to establish a silicon valley in Israel. (Hellooo — how many countries in the world enjoy Israel’s per-capital technology startup success?) And despite the two essays’ length, I have trouble finding many specifics I actually agree with. [...]

  40. The article was very interesting. I also agree with him on many points. I live in NorthWest Indiana and the only type of geeks around here are 40-something network admins still trying to get their MSCE or LAN party geeks (which are fun if they can stop talking about CounterStrike for a while). I used to work in Chicago for Sapient during the dotcom boom days and there was a lot of innovation and new ideas in the city. The River North area had lots of web design and development shops that were pretty cool. I haven’t worked in the city since 2001 so I don’t really know how it is now. I also lived and worked in Seattle and Bellevue (even Redmond at MS for 2 months) and could definitely feel the geek vibe. It is all about the people and location just like the article says.

    The cool thing though is if you don’t have other geeks around you to talk to you can always scour the Web for people with same interests. Also, and I don’t recommend this to everywhere, but you can rename your SSID for your wireless network at your house with something like “Looking for fellow geek – 555-5555″ because you know the other geeks out there are scanning for wifi networks in your neighborhood! I actually did this and someone called me. That was almost a year ago and we still chat on a regular basis.

    I also agree with you Rob about India and China. There are some amazing people there. I know from calling Microsoft tech support! :)

  41. The article was very interesting. I also agree with him on many points. I live in NorthWest Indiana and the only type of geeks around here are 40-something network admins still trying to get their MSCE or LAN party geeks (which are fun if they can stop talking about CounterStrike for a while). I used to work in Chicago for Sapient during the dotcom boom days and there was a lot of innovation and new ideas in the city. The River North area had lots of web design and development shops that were pretty cool. I haven’t worked in the city since 2001 so I don’t really know how it is now. I also lived and worked in Seattle and Bellevue (even Redmond at MS for 2 months) and could definitely feel the geek vibe. It is all about the people and location just like the article says.

    The cool thing though is if you don’t have other geeks around you to talk to you can always scour the Web for people with same interests. Also, and I don’t recommend this to everywhere, but you can rename your SSID for your wireless network at your house with something like “Looking for fellow geek – 555-5555″ because you know the other geeks out there are scanning for wifi networks in your neighborhood! I actually did this and someone called me. That was almost a year ago and we still chat on a regular basis.

    I also agree with you Rob about India and China. There are some amazing people there. I know from calling Microsoft tech support! :)

  42. Hmmm. Microsoft seemed to be pretty successful before ever setting foot in SV. How many cottage industries did MS cause to spring up in and around Seattle? Oh, I dunno.. Amazon for one. How many VC’s that sprung up in the Seattle area as a result of MS?

    Then we have Austin, RTE 128 in Boston…. Many areas in the UK, France, India, Japan…

    John is right, Scoble. You REALLY REALLY need to take the blinders off and get out more.

  43. Hmmm. Microsoft seemed to be pretty successful before ever setting foot in SV. How many cottage industries did MS cause to spring up in and around Seattle? Oh, I dunno.. Amazon for one. How many VC’s that sprung up in the Seattle area as a result of MS?

    Then we have Austin, RTE 128 in Boston…. Many areas in the UK, France, India, Japan…

    John is right, Scoble. You REALLY REALLY need to take the blinders off and get out more.

  44. Monied Sex, Sexy Money, and Silicon Valley’s Word…

    Wealth precedes culture, says a really cool man that I met at my Peet’s the other day. Yeah, yet another Dave, I swear. We’re talking renaissance. And this is a good point to mention I totally missed today/yesterday’s reboot8 conference…

  45. dmad: even with Microsoft’s success here in Seattle it’s nowhere even close to Silicon Valley’s diversity and overall success. We have 20,000 workers here. Silicon Valley has more than a million.

  46. dmad: even with Microsoft’s success here in Seattle it’s nowhere even close to Silicon Valley’s diversity and overall success. We have 20,000 workers here. Silicon Valley has more than a million.

  47. @30. More than a million working for one company? Really? You’re obviously missing the point. Silcon Valley is not the Zion of geekdom like you believe it is. The Mormon’s made the same mistake about Salt Lake City. :-)

  48. @30. More than a million working for one company? Really? You’re obviously missing the point. Silcon Valley is not the Zion of geekdom like you believe it is. The Mormon’s made the same mistake about Salt Lake City. :-)

  49. Umm, Silycon Valley for geeks and dot.com fraud twizzleheads, Copper Valley for cmmercial fishers, LA for screenwriters and actors, NYC for theatre mavens. Napa area for Wine Lovers. Arkansas for rusted-cars lawn decorational types. Bloomington, IL and Omaha, Neb. for insurance Execs. Peoria for Caterpillar Tractors, Detriot for the auto industry. Philly and Boston for Historians. Utah for Ski’ers. Chicago for Mercantile and Convention industry types. Palm Beach for Beach and Luxury Lovers.

    Why is this such a surprise?

  50. Umm, Silycon Valley for geeks and dot.com fraud twizzleheads, Copper Valley for cmmercial fishers, LA for screenwriters and actors, NYC for theatre mavens. Napa area for Wine Lovers. Arkansas for rusted-cars lawn decorational types. Bloomington, IL and Omaha, Neb. for insurance Execs. Peoria for Caterpillar Tractors, Detriot for the auto industry. Philly and Boston for Historians. Utah for Ski’ers. Chicago for Mercantile and Convention industry types. Palm Beach for Beach and Luxury Lovers.

    Why is this such a surprise?