In many ways, failure is as endemic here as it is in Rochester. Even though, as the entrepreneur and academic Vivek Wadhwa reminds us, female-founded startups are more capital-efficient than those founded by men and have lower failure rates and higher annual revenues, women are still radically underrepresented in Silicon Valley. Indian immigrants outpaced their Chinese counterparts as founders of engineering and technology companies in Silicon Valley.
We found that from to , Indians were key founders of The outsized impact of Indian founders was logical. The overall percentage of immigrant-founded companies in Silicon Valley almost perfectly matched the population at large. Then the Immigration and Nationality Act of nearly tripled the number of immigrant visas awarded for special occupational talents, from 54, to , Few doubted that these immigrant engineers had become significant contributors to the rapid growth and cycle of innovation of Silicon Valley.
But how much of a contribution had they made? Over a mere two decades, immigrant entrepreneurs in general, and Chinese and Indian entrepreneurs in particular, became a powerful force in Silicon Valley value creation and company formation. She found that Chinese or Indian engineers served as CEOs or leaders at roughly one-quarter of all high-technology businesses in Silicon Valley. The swift rise of this cadre from to was breathtaking.
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Maybe the best way to introduce it is to explain why I bothered to write it. In the second part of the s Silicon Valley had the same center-of-the-universe feel to it as Wall Street had in the mids. There was a reason for this: it was the source of a great deal of change. Up until April 4, , Silicon Valley was known as the source of a few high-tech industries, and mainly the computer industry.
On April 4, , Netscape was incorporated. Suddenlyas fast as that Silicon Valley was the source of changes taking place across the society. The Internet was a Trojan horse in which technogeeks entered all sorts of markets previously inhospitable to technogeeks. Wall Street, to take just one example, was turned on its head by new companies and new technologies and new social types created just south of San Francisco. I really do think, and not just because I happen to be writing a book about it, that the business of creating and foisting new technology upon others that goes on in Silicon Valley is near the core of the American experience.
The United States obviously occupies a strange place in the world.
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It is the capital of innovation, of material prosperity, of a certain kind of energy, of certain kinds of freedom, and of transience. It is one of those places, unlike the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but like Las Vegas, that are unimaginable anywhere but in the United States. It is distinctively us. Within this unusual place some people were clearly more unusual than others. Many of those who sought and found fortune in Silicon Valley in the s could just as easily have found it on Wall Street in the s or in London in the s.
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From the start of my investigation of Silicon Valley , I knew I was trying to describe a process: how this fantastic wealth got created. It just so happened that the process was best illustrated by this character.
After all, the greatest legal creation of wealth in the history of the planet came directly from the new new thing. When you asked, "How is it that an entire economy made this little leap? That person may not be entirely typical of our age. Is anyone?
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But he is, in this case, representative: a disruptive force. A catalyst for change and regenera- Page 16 tion. The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross. Silicon Valley has been home to technology-driven innovation for a long time, but the year period from to was something special. People all over the world witnessed a spectacular level of innovation and wealth creation, all emerging from a small mile long, mile-wide strip of Northern California.
Detroit has domain expertise in cars, Paris has it in fashion, and Silicon Valley has it in Internet-based businesses. Domain expertise for the industries of the future is still broadly distributed. To understand domain expertise, consider the following question: Why do a ridiculously high percentage of Internet companies still come out of Silicon Valley when massive investment is being made around the world to compete with it? Many factors are at play, but domain expertise is the most important. They could have been born anywhere, but they came to Silicon Valley for school Stanford or Berkeley , employment which creates a self-reinforcing cycle that concentrates talent , and investment with the Valley offering far and away the most access to early-stage capital in the world.
Berman brought the intellectual curiosity about agriculture with him to Silicon Valley and developed Farm, a partnership that aspires to combine data science and robotics to improve farming with a group of partners as diverse as Google, DuPont, and 3D Robotics.
Several European and Asian countries also possessed technology regions named in homage to Silicon Valley. Chong-Moon Lee, William F. Rowen Stanford: Stanford University Press , — Peter Hall and Ann Markusen, 20— Boston: Allen and Unwin, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, Schaeffer, Dorothy. Schoonhoven, Claudia Bird.
The personal computer was still a relatively new thing. We were getting in on the ground floor of what would become a huge new market. In the s Silicon Valley technology companies were boring places where engineers worked in drab office parks writing software or designing semiconductors and circuit boards and network routers.
In the early s the Internet era began, and Silicon Valley changed.
The new companies were flimsy, based on hype and grandiose rhetoric and the promise of making a fortune overnight. The dotcom boom of the late s was followed by the dotcom bust, and then came a period when Silicon Valley felt like a ghost town. The result, according to countless articles in publications like Fortune, the New Republic, Bloomberg, and New York Magazine, is that Silicon Valley has become a place where people live in fear. As soon as someone better or cheaper comes along, your company will get rid of you.
This new arrangement between workers and employers was invented by Silicon Valley companies and is considered an innovation as significant as the chips and software for which the Valley is better known. Now this ideology has spread beyond Silicon Valley.
We are living in a period of huge economic transformation, in which entire industries—retail, banking, healthcare, media, manufacturing—are being reshaped by technology. Some current and former HubSpotters agreed to be interviewed for the book, but only on condition that our conversations remain off the record. Some people were afraid to talk to me at all. At the time I thought their concerns were silly. But as things turned out, those people may have been right to be afraid. Regarding terminology: When I use the term Silicon Valley I do not mean to denote an actual geographic region—the sixty-mile peninsula between San Francisco and San Jose, where the original technology companies were built.
The term bubble, as I use it, refers not only to the economic bubble in which the valuation of some tech start-ups went crazy but also to the mindset of the people working inside technology companies, the true believers and Kool-Aid drinkers, the people who live inside their own filter bubble, brimming with self-confidence and self-regard, impervious to criticism, immunized against reality, unaware of how ridiculous they appear to the outside world.
While most businesspeople were still chained to their BlackBerrys, the Sidekick found popularity among young people and hipsters, many of whom switched from PalmPilots. David C. By he had a deep surprise in store for an industry that did not change easily and was largely unfamiliar with Silicon Valley culture. By and large the industry had generally resisted computer technology. However, engineers elsewhere in the country were beginning to think about transportation through the new lens of cheap sensors, the microprocessor, and the Internet.
In the spring of , rumors about an experimental Google car began to float around Silicon Valley. Initially they sounded preposterous. The company, nominally a provider of Internet search, was supposedly hiding the cars in plain sight. The great boom ultimately took on a speculative character that led to wasted investments and the collapse of many poorly grounded operations.
But it was rooted in a surge of not-unrealistic optimism about the potential of the Internet to change the world of business.
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Among the striking features of the era, one of the most startling is this: the rate of high-tech entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley seems to have been below the national average from to , according to a recent analysis of business creation during the tech boom. But these factors could just as easily have driven an increase in new firm formation and employment as a rise in salaries.
Silicon Valley experienced more of the latter than the former because workers were scarce. There was essentially no surplus labor in the whole of the region. Firms therefore had to bargain hard to hire qualified workers, and this meant giving up a substantial share of firm surplus in the form of salary, benefits, and profit sharing.
That, in turn, made it more attractive to be a worker than an entrepreneur. And this brings us to the crux of the matter: why was the Silicon Valley labor market so tight? More remarkably, why were people moving in the opposite direction? From to , for instance, San Francisco and San Mateo counties each lost a net of about 10, residents to other parts of the country. Santa Clara County, the heart of the Valley, lost a net of 30, residents.
Who Needs the Fed? Think back to the discussion in chapter 4. Silicon Valley is in the midst of another boom. Of course, the unicorns are mere minnows relative to the larger public companies that are worth a great deal more. So aggressively is money chasing all the innovative production in northern California that even the chefs that work at high-flying tech companies are in play. More specifically, why does the proverbial credit window shut so quickly for money-losing directors yet remain open for entrepreneurs who preside over imploding start-ups? Second, and of much greater importance, tech has a higher upside than film does.
Profits are what determine income, the value of equity options, and bonuses. If regulations reduce them, so will they reduce the quality of talent that migrates to banking.
What is notable here is that the frequency of failure in Silicon Valley also means the sky is the limit in terms of potential wealth gains. For the sake of comparison, consider Detroit. It was the Silicon Valley of the first half of the twentieth century, based on how failure was the norm.
That its carmakers now largely owe their existence to government is a signal that not a lot of staggering wealth is being created there. Yet both have demonstrated extraordinary levels of ambition and boldness and a willingness to bet big despite the prospect of humiliating failure.