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:
- Europe’s Silicon Allee: Berlin on the Road to Becoming a Start-Up Mecca
- “China’s Silicon Valley” gets big boost
- Kick-starting the great engine: Could Silicon Valley be ‘Made in Pakistan’
- GSMA Announces Barcelona, Milan, Munich and Paris as Finalists Competing to Become the Mobile World Capital
- Will Silicon Valley Remain the Center of the Tech Universe?
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?