Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

"Silicon Valley" Turns 40 - Do We Need it?

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 11, 2011

David Laws writes at the Examiner:

January 11, 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the first appearance of the name Silicon Valley in print.

Under the headline SILICON VALLEY USA, journalist Don C. Hoefler wrote the first of a three-part series on the history of the semiconductor industry in the Bay Area. His behind the "scenes report of the men, money, and litigation which spawned" the industry appeared on page one of the industry tabloid Electronic News on Monday January 11, 1971.

He points out that there is anecdotal evidence of the use of the name "Silicon Valley" prior to this date but that, "Author Michael S. Malone suggests that Hoefler's pioneering coverage of the Silicon Valley community as a collection of characters, dreamers, and eccentrics made him "the one that put the whole idea in our minds".

Silicon Valley is an idea that has certainly stayed with us for a long time. And it continues to grow as an idea and as an important place for innovation. I meet with entrepreneurs all the time who have just relocated to Silicon Valley from places inside the US and outside the country.

Over the years the area has changed. Silicon Valley these days looks more like a "Media Valley" because many of our top companies are in the media business: Google, Facebook, Twitter; Apple is a maker of media devices and sells media content; and Intel and AMD chips are specifically designed to handle media data.

But do we still need Silicon Valley? There are plenty of people who will say no, that innovation is being done elsewhere.

For example, Tristan Louis argues that New York could displace SIlicon Valley:

A decade after its implosion, New York is being given a new chance to pick up the mantle, along with some dis­tinct advantages this time around.


In Venturebeat David Bruin writes that there are many advantages to building a startup outside of Silicon Valley:

The availability of venture funds in secondary markets, as well as angel money and super-angels, has also increased substantially in recent years - in some places outpacing the supply of exciting local projects seeking funds. As a result, the chances of your project getting the VC attention it deserves may be higher in a secondary market.


He makes a good point about the new culture of sharing information:

With the advent of blogs and other social media, though, there is now much more information sharing and transparency in the startup world, both on the founding side and on the funding side.

It is true that innovation can be done outside of Silicon Valley. It is also true that you can build a successful startup outside of Silicon Valley. But none of these things detracts from Silicon Valley or indicates that Silicon Valley is done.

Silicon Valley has become a mecca for entrepreneurs from around the world and it is growing in size and importance.

Silicon Valley is also a state of mind, it represents a culture and an industriousness that cannot be found anywhere else. The ideas of Silicon Valley can be made available anywhere in the world but trying to build a new Silicon Valley elsewhere means far more than building a business park around a university and injecting some money. That doesn't work because you don't have the essential cultural features that make Silicon Valley successful.

Culture cannot be exported. And that's why more and more entrepreneurs are opening offices here -- a trend that will grow over the coming years. It will grow because of the many advantages of being here: the access to capital; the access to skills; the access to a community of people that know what you are talking about.

If you are an entrepreneur new to Silicon Valley let me know, I'm putting together a new series of interviews and profiles. Drop me a note here: foremski at gmail.


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