Log in

No account? Create an account
24 May 2006 @ 11:18 am
From the latest Paul Graham essay, called "How To Be Silicon Valley":

However, merely creating a new university would not be enough to start a silicon valley. The university is just the seed. It has to be planted in the right soil, or it won't germinate. Plant it in the wrong place, and you just create Carnegie-Mellon.

Ow. So harsh. So true.

Good essay. Very good essay.
Hillary: Mischevouscoyotegrrrl on May 24th, 2006 06:25 pm (UTC)
Mmm, monkeys!
Cool-Mantg2k on May 24th, 2006 07:00 pm (UTC)
That is harsh. If only the Bay weren't so expensive to live in, though...it's no place for single-income families. And it would have been nice if I'd been there for the boom years instead of the bust years. 2000-2005 just overall sucked.

Equally saddening: It's possible we'll move back to Pittsburgh at some point, and if I ever need a job again (bearing in mind that I telecommute), I'm going to be dealing with a lousy set of options and a big pay cut.

However, on the aspect of weather...I'm not alone in thinking that Pittsburgh's weather is in some respects preferable to the Bay's. Some of us like snow in winter and rain in summer, even if it means high humidity, snow shoveling, and dreary cloud-cover. But if we could have afforded a house in the bay, and vacations to Tahoe and such, this would have been less an issue.
Taliasooperspryte on May 25th, 2006 12:22 am (UTC)
laughed out loud
(Deleted comment)
Noahangelbob on May 25th, 2006 01:06 am (UTC)
This is true, and things like at-will employment probably also help (for both employees and employers). But in some of the tech hubs, non-compete agreements are enforceable and they still manage somehow, so it's not make-or-break.
VanderVeckenxthread on May 26th, 2006 12:55 am (UTC)
in some of the tech hubs, non-compete agreements are enforceable and they still manage somehow, so it's not make-or-break

Well, which one's had you had in mind?

SeaWa? There is virtually no high-tech spinoff industry there, investors there have been trying to create one for years, I assert that Washington's no-compete laws, and Microsoft's use of them, contribute greatly.

Boston? They are a tech hub, but they have a pretty nasty boom-and-bust cycle, that we mostly haven't had. Anne Saxenian has some interesting comments about no-compete agreements in Regional Advantage, but I don't have my copy handy, so I can't quote them.
Anthonyterpsichoros on May 25th, 2006 04:00 am (UTC)
That doesn't explain UC Berkeley, which is a lot like CMU, except that nobody notices becuase it's so close to Silicon Valley.
Noahangelbob on May 25th, 2006 04:06 am (UTC)
UC Berkeley competes extremely directly with Silicon Valley. That is to say, if Berkeley were going to become a Silicon Valley.

You could argue that it's close enough to already be part of the same lump anyway.

If UC Berkeley wanted to be the defining university of Silicon Valley then the problem is that it's competing with Stanford.
Anthonyterpsichoros on May 25th, 2006 04:29 am (UTC)
Notice that almost no IT companies are located in Berkeley, or even Emeryville (which is more business-friendly). Berkeley is the CMU of the East Bay - all its smart IT graduates go elsewhere. The move is just shorter.
VanderVeckenxthread on May 26th, 2006 12:58 am (UTC)
Oh, and the economists that have looked at this also consider both Berkeley and Stanford (and the rivalry between them) to be critical elements to why Silly Valley exists.

They also speak quite highly of De Anza.
VanderVeckenxthread on May 26th, 2006 12:56 am (UTC)
The economists who've looked at the issue consider Berkeley to be part of Silicon Valley, for all intents and purposes.
Anthony: interrogating textterpsichoros on May 25th, 2006 04:20 am (UTC)
Now that I've read the essay, I have a few bones to pick. Silicon Valley is *not* in San Francisco, nor Berkeley. The startup scene in SF is an offshoot of Silicon Valley - in IT, SF is a suburb of Palo Alto.

Part of what made Silicon Valley was Stanford's very lenient rules about commercializing things invented or developed at Stanford. If Sergey Brin and Larry Page had been grad students at Berkeley, they'd still be fighting with the UC Regents to be allowed to licence Page Rank.

He may be right that strongly Republican cities are not places to create a new Silicon Valley - such places can be quite good at wealth-creation, but the business communities will tend to go for more established sorts of businesses. But really heavily Democratic areas are bad places for that, too, and I think that both Portland and Boulder would be terrible places because they both have political cultures which make doing almost anything large a huge political hassle. They may be good towns to incubate businesses in garages and small offices, but could you imagine creating the Googleplex or the Netscape Campus in San Francisco, or Berkeley, or Boulder, or Portland? Vancouver, WA, might be a good place to try, though.

Silicon Valley grew up in the suburbs. There are parts of it which are truly urban, but the "cool" areas are really small-town downtowns which have grown rich, not places which were every really "urban".
Noahangelbob on May 25th, 2006 04:27 am (UTC)
His point wasn't that this stuff all happens in urban areas. It's that it has to be near enough to urban areas that the already-successful don't completely desert you.

Palo Alto is where Silicon Valley is, not SF, yes. But if Palo Alto weren't near SF, it wouldn't have happened.
Anthonyterpsichoros on May 25th, 2006 04:37 am (UTC)
It's possible that if some of San Francisco's wealthy hadn't chosen to live down the peninsula, that the money for Silicon Valley may not have been as abundant. But the lower peninsula was, even before it became Silicon Valley, a place where electronics companies located. If Stanford had been located in Gilroy, Silicon Valley would be the Coyote Valley instead of the Santa Clara Valley, though it might have not been quite as big a deal, as the money would have been scarcer.
Noahangelbob on May 25th, 2006 04:44 am (UTC)
Which brings us to his point about Chicago -- if it were not as big a deal, it wouldn't happen at all. It doesn't seem to be a proportional response to how much money or how much geek potential is there. Half as much money or geek potential yields a lot less than half as much of Silicon Valley.

If there had been an inconvenient, broke-ish Silicon Valley in place of the one that happened, *much* more of the talent and money would now be in, say, Seattle or Boston.
VanderVeckenxthread on May 26th, 2006 01:05 am (UTC)
Ah... Having read the essay, let me expand on a couple of his points.

First, on Rich People - the key here in the Bay Area is that we have a statistically ridiculously large amount of New Money. Specifically, Money that remembers making it. So we have a local concentration of people who believe that they can invest in others and become more rich by those people they invest in becoming rich. This is mind-bogglingly rare.

Second, on Government - Government supported the early incubation of both Silicon Valley (You think Lockheed and Fairchild made consumer goods? Hah!) and Route 128 (Raytheon). Lockheed and Fairchild begat Intel and Atari and Sun and ..., Raytheon begat Digital and Apollo. And HP made an awful lot of money from the government as well.

Seattle and Portland both should have been able to do it, but for the fact that neither one had the access to capital and the business culture of entrepeneurship. Tektronix breeds startups, but it breeds them really slowly, and most of them are really product research groups for Tek, when it comes right down to it.
Sarah Lee Garrettslgarrett on May 26th, 2006 11:15 am (UTC)

That's the best slam of Pittsburgh I've seen in years.
taoflaherty on May 29th, 2006 04:01 am (UTC)
Do I want to move to Seattle?
Is it really that much better than Carnegie Mellon?
Noahangelbob on May 30th, 2006 03:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Do I want to move to Seattle?
It is if you're trying to start a tech business, or want to live somewhere that has a lot of that kind of thing.

It's better if you're trying to work full-time on programming for similar reasons - more tech businesses mean more jobs.

There's also more interesting stuff to do in Seattle than Pittsburgh, by a very wide margin.

So, y'know, maybe. Depends on your priorities. It's not nearly as cheap to live there, for instance.