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Silicon Valley Dreams

Is it just me or does it seem as if nearly every country is shining the lights on at least one of its cities and promoting it as the next “Silicon Valley?”

During the last couple of weeks, I’ve come across news snippets implying that being dubbed some sort of copycat Silicon Valley, Mobile World Capital, or center of the tech universe holds incredible promise for everyone involved. Here’s a random sampling of headlines that recently popped up on my screen in the form of random RSS alerts, Twitter feeds, or Google searches:

I was even a bit surprised to find a Website dedicated to The Next Silicon Valley happenings. The site — founded by Richard Wallace, former editor in chief of EBN sister publication EE Times — publishes news and information “about the world of innovation, entrepreneurship, technology development, regional economic development, venture capital, and investment promotion across global markets.”

Yes, I see the value in having global high-tech centers where innovation, entrepreneurship, and venture capital meet at the crossroads and fuel local development. Indeed, there’s some inherent human need to cluster around like-minded individuals who provide a net of support; that’s how many neighborhoods in most international cities came into being in the first place. I could even extrapolate that concept and apply it to the corporate world.

Years ago, when time, space and distance, created significant hurdles to innovation, development, and communication, the high-tech sector probably needed places like the original Silicon Valley in California and its successors in Austin, Bangalore, Boston, Dresden, New York, Taipei, Shanghai, Singapore, and the entire country of Israel. Like-minded companies overcame physical boundaries by coming together in physical locations that were geographically appropriate, had a decent logistics infrastructure, delivered tax or financial benefits, provided a highly skilled talent pool, or offered a low-cost labor market opportunity.

But, honestly, I don’t get how creating a tech hub or setting up shop in a tech hub are even relevant any more. It’s 2011, and here we all are — remote gadget warriors — priding ourselves on our ability to work from anywhere, anytime. Time, space, and distance are still issues we have to deal with, but follow-the-sun manufacturing and supply chain practices and other tech improvements have narrowed those gaps considerably. Arguably, too, aren’t most international cities, by now, some version of hyper-connected WiFi zones that hang their hopes on entrepreneurs flocking to the region to stimulate post-recession economic growth and help whittle down high unemployment numbers?

This situation raises a bunch of questions: What is it about tech hubs that is still appealing today? Does your company operate in high-tech centers? Would it matter if it didn’t? What factors would influence a company to expand into these new economic zones? Have these cities out-served their usefulness and simply become local governments' marketing campaigns to win global interest and investment dollars?

Further: What advantages do potential Silicon Valley 2.0 or 3.0 newcomers offer? Does it make a supply chain professional’s job easier to work with companies clustered in a specific zone? And which cities (mentioned here or underdogs rarely in the spotlight) do you think would actually propel high-tech innovation and deserve high-tech investment, and why?

24 comments on “Silicon Valley Dreams

  1. AnalyzeThis
    May 10, 2011

    First of all I liked the article Jennifer, and I agree that as we move forward a more remote-worker-driven workplace that the need to be in some sort of tech hub becomes less and less important.

    But with that being said, there are still viable reasons for tech hubs and “Silicon Valleys” to continue to exist: let's say I'm a Software Engineer. If I'm good, I can probably stay in Kansas (or wherever I live) and find work. Good engineers are hard to find, so if I'm talented, I should be able to find work anywhere.

    But if I wanted to do more than sit in my house and code for the rest of my life — maybe climb the corporate ladder a little bit — then moving to a tech hub of some kind seems like a good idea.

    There are other advantages to physical location as well: if you're a good engineer in Silicon Valley, it isn't difficult to meet up with and work with people of similar interests. And if you're sick of your job and need a new one, it's fairly easy to transition to another company. It's easier to network, it's easier to maybe get a bunch of your friends together and try the start-up thing, etc.

    And of course it is still relevant for tech companies to operate in such areas for this very reason: if I want to hire full-time, on-site talent, I'm going to have better luck in Northern California than I would in South Dakota.

    This all being said, I do find the whole “Next Silicon Valley” thing kind of silly… It seems like I've been reading articles with similar concepts for years. There's only one Silicon Valley and it isn't likely to be replicated or surpassed elsewhere anytime soon.

  2. Nemos
    May 10, 2011

    The physical contact and the way we communicate when we are face to face cannot be totally replaced with remote connections or working via the internet. So there always will be the need to have “silicon valleys”. Furthermore, it is more convenient for people who interest about particular things to look and search in the same place rather to search in different places.

  3. frobertazzi
    May 10, 2011

    Its human nature.  Or it could be genrational.  My 14 year old and her peers, seem quite happy in a virtual world. 

    I remember reading 15 years ago how when networking and the Bloomberg Terminal came out (Finance Industry's Terminal), lower Manahattant will no longer be concentrated by finance. 

    Today one of the largest concentration of Bloomberg Terminals can be found in lower Manhattan.

  4. Ms. Daisy
    May 10, 2011

    More and more businesses are tele-communicating, even in healthcare to reduce cost and increase access to care. Do you see this physical contact continuing for long with rising oil prices and higher cost of establishing and maintaining physical sites?

  5. Mydesign
    May 11, 2011

       Peoples from all over the world travel to Silicon Valley to create, innovate, pursuing dreams and challenging oneself to make a difference because of desperate desire to truly change the world. We're all working to change the world with innovative design and end products with the help of better technologies. Since many companies are in silicon city, the opportunities are also more. Innovating and making a difference are powerful, sustainably happy dreams are much more than anything. The Silicon Valley dream is to change the world.
       From organizational point of view, remote gadgets are not at all feasible because of many reasons. But many of the companies are still following for employee satisfaction, as temporary arrangements. In core R&D or production environment it’s very difficult.

  6. Nemos
    May 11, 2011

    I agree with the new “tele” era, but a big company with 150 employees and above can't exist without having a “psychical” head office. And most of the times the maintaining costs are smaller when you have gathered your employees and services to one site. I have a totally different opinion for the scattered around branches, and in this case, I believe the “tele” working is better than to have branches with maintaining costs.

  7. prabhakar_deosthali
    May 11, 2011

    Though the tele-working, virtual office, work from home may be the buzzwords of today , the advantages of working in a big complex having like-minded busineses does have its advantages.  One – it facilitates creation of a right infrastructure best suited for those businesses. Two- it becomes a centralized hub for all the customers and suppliers. Three – It gives a sense of belong to a particular business community for those working in such complex. The overall productivity of the companies and employess working in such companies is better than that scattered workforce where such productivity cannot be measured.  And finally it also becomes a status symbol to have your business card having an address belonging to one of those world famous business districts.

  8. Jay_Bond
    May 11, 2011

    It seems like everybody is touting being the “next great hub” of various industries. There are advantages and negatives to having such consolidations. For starters the areas need to make sure they are more than capable of handling such large growth like extra traffic, more utilities being used and general land available. Another lingering question could always be “what happens if a natural disaster was to occur?” A large scale earthquake could take out all of Silicon Valley. What would happen to the infrastructure if many of these companies disappeared?

  9. Jennifer Baljko
    May 11, 2011

    Thanks for the comments. I agree with a couple of main points coming up here. Bringing together groups of people seems necessary to one extent or another, mostly to satisfy a human need to live/work/play in some communal way. Digital is great, but yes, it doesn't replace the physical connection we inherently need. That's why cities and their surrounding bedroom communities appeal to so many people; that's where you'll find a healthy mix of similarities, differences, and just about any kind of opportunity you're looking for or want to create. I also get that on a corporate level why clustering in appealing places is important. Having a physical address in a place considered a magnet location is a plus for all the reasons many of you mentioned. Additionally, it also fosters a sense of community, unity, and teamwork difficult to replicate if everyone was virtual.

    I suppose what I find rather silly, though, is this popular trend of labeling, naming, and marketing cities or regions as Silicon Whatever 2.0. Constructing office parks, dubbing them technology centers, luring a few high-tech entrepreneurs or corporate headquarters, and offering tax incentives doesn't make a region particularly noteworthy. Quality of life, climate/weather, infrastructure, safety/crime, cost of living, cost of doing business, educational opportunities, cultural and political openness, a skilled labor pool, access to a local and global community, long-term viability, regional improvement projects, etc…a strong combination of all those factors will usher in 21st century high-tech greatness and will make Silicon Whatever 2.0 stand out from the wanna-bes.

     

     

     

  10. Ariella
    May 11, 2011

    I suppose what I find rather silly, though, is this popular trend of labeling, naming, and marketing cities or regions as Silicon Whatever 2.0

    You're right, but it is a marketing gimmick that is used in all industries. Certainly, I see it in the book industry in which a children's book author would be touted as “the next JK Rowling.”  And thrillers that reference arcane information used to be compared to Umberto Ecco but more recently have been compared to The Davinci Code.   It's riding on the fame of something or someone who is already well-known in the hope that some of that glittery stuff will spread over the object you promote.

  11. tioluwa
    May 11, 2011

    Jennifer,

    you're right about two things

    The world as small as a PC monitor, with the rise of the internet, so a geographical concentration as was needed in time past is not necessary.

    as a matter of fact, it is risky, if we look at it from the angle of the japan disaster.

     

    You are also right that labeling them all Silicon vally is grossly unnecessary, but as Ariella stated, it really is marketting strategy,

    Basically, the world is trying to imitate the success of this sector of the US economy, and it is doing so by copying its approach right from the very foundation which is not necessary.

    The world's greatest Tech hub is the internet, and no localized tech hub can match up to it.

  12. Ms. Daisy
    May 11, 2011

    A company with that many employees certainly need a corporate office for the business side of managing that many people. You are right branches or Satellite offices in a non-service corporation is not cost efficient. I am all for “tele-commuting” or “tele” communicating.

  13. Anna Young
    May 11, 2011

    Toms, Whilst I agree that the Silicon Valley dream is to 'Innovate and change the world', however I have found it equally to be a strategy used by  governments to attract investments and marketing campaign as mentioned by Jennifer. Obviously there's nothing wrong with that. My concern is if more cities and countries are setting up their own new Silicon Valley, will it not lose its importance?

  14. eemom
    May 11, 2011

    While I agree, I am encouraged by the “demand” for creating such hubs.  The more countries and cities that set up their own silicon valleys, the more demand for engineering power, innovation and design.  As Anna mentions, these silicon valleys will also attract investors, create jobs, in more than just electronics, and help fuel the economy. 

  15. saranyatil
    May 13, 2011

    If we look into the statistics today – number of engineers graduating from Asia is rapidly increasing. new silicon valleys will definitely create good oppurtunity for the youngsters. we can see loads of innovations coming up!

  16. eemom
    May 13, 2011

    I wonder if we have a similar Statistic here in the US or over in Europe?  The more bright people the field can attract, the more innovation and success we can all experience.

  17. voominc
    May 13, 2011

    If you're going to have a “Silicon Valley”, you must fill it with smart, capable people from all over the world.  These people can live anywhere they can get a visa, and they want to live somewhere nice.  They are not going to flock to some place that has shiny new industrial parks but otherwise has bad weather or is dirty, dangerous, crowded or boring.   They do not care to live among locals who treat them like freaks because they might be foreigners.

    The only tech center that I know of that can match Northern California on lifestyle is Austin, Texas.

  18. stochastic excursion
    May 13, 2011

    Telecommuting is fine if you're developing software or artwork on an existing platform.  The legacy of Silicon Valley though is new devices and systems using innovative materials and architecture.  A lot of times interacting with work going on in the lab requires a hands-on approach that can't be phoned in.

  19. saranyatil
    May 14, 2011

    I think the statistics will remain close, definitely we are going witness some great stuff with electronics being the backbone.

  20. saranyatil
    May 14, 2011

    I think the statistics will remain close, definitely we are going witness some great stuff with electronics being the backbone.

  21. Ms. Daisy
    May 14, 2011

    Anna:

    I wonder how cost efficient it is for all these new hubs being suggested/created?

  22. Jennifer Baljko
    May 16, 2011

    Hi

    Some really good points raised in these comments. Beyond the tech hub issues, companies probably struggling with all of these issues to one extent or another:

    – Choosing how and where  to physically represent a compny in an increasingly virtual business world without many borders.

    – Attracting and “distributing” global engineering talent and other skilled labors while ensuring that people who work in tech hubs don't feel like outsiders in local communities

    – Balancing government incentitives with expected corporate cost efficiency

    – Deciding when telecommuting is effective and when it isn't

    – Figuring out how to accurately and effecting communicate enterprisewise regardless of whether most employees are located in one or several locations, or is

    – Flexibly reallocating physical assets (labor, machinery, or otherwise) as supply and demand shift, and knowing when is the “perfect' time to do that.

    -Being everywhere at the same time, while trying not to dilute or spread too thin key operations.

    Would be great to hear from companies on how they have addressed these issues, how they decided to set up shop in one of these new tech hubs, and what their experience has been so far.

     

     

     

  23. hwong
    May 17, 2011

    Actually the silicon valley is not what it used to be anymore. I have seen the trend that many high tech places are dispersed everywhere. For example, Intel has huge plants in Chandler AZ, Amazon and Microsoft are in Seattle, alot of communications tech companies are located in Irvine. Many more….

    A  hub is not really necessarily these days anymore. It's just where corporations can find more talents if necessary.

  24. hwong
    May 17, 2011

    Actually the silicon valley is not what it used to be anymore. I have seen the trend that many high tech places are dispersed everywhere. For example, Intel has huge plants in Chandler AZ, Amazon and Microsoft are in Seattle, alot of communications tech companies are located in Irvine. Many more….

    A  hub is not really necessarily these days anymore. It's just where corporations can find more talents if necessary.

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