Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Why Silicon Valley is still the hub of innovation

Great article in the LA Times today called "Come for Brunch. Bring Billions", about the Founders Brunch a regular, invite-only get-together of deal-makers and entrepreneurs that takes place in the SF Bay Area.

Lots has been written about innovation and entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley. This article really nails what I think are the top two reasons why the Bay Area is still the center of the tech universe - a culture and climate that rewards risk-taking, and the network effect. I've done business (in technology) now in Ottawa, Boston, Los Angeles, and Silicon Valley, and I've never seen such a strong and open network, and such openess to taking risk.

People think BIG in Silicon Valley. They aren't out to start a company to play it safe, they start a company to change the world, or at least the way people do something, and grow exponentially. And some do, and others fail spectacularily - but the big difference is that's ok. Failing means you're thinking big and you're trying. Many of the ideas that take flight in the Bay Area (and many that become huge successes) would be laughed out of the boardroom everywhere else - dismissed as crazy. How many people said "no-one will watch user-generated video content - what a waste of time"?

I've also never experienced such a strong network. Groups of engineers and entrepreneurs have been meeting since the 60s here. Go to a networking event in most areas of the country, and people are cliqu-ey - reluctant to talk and reluctant to share their network. In the Bay-Area, everyone is keen to chat, if even only for a few minutes, as everyone's on the lookout for the next Big Idea, and everyone seems to understand that even if you don't have business to do today together, you might know someone who might be able to help and visa versa.

To echo Peter Thiel's quote in the article, there are lots of cheaper places to set up a business - that's why people still set up in Silicon Valley.

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