Urbanism and Silicon Valley

This week the Times’ Randall Stross examined the persistent creative fertility of San Francisco’s Silicon Valley, concluding It’s Not the People You Know. It’s Where You Are. It turns out close physical proximity makes it easier for entrepreneurs to get venture capitol, find employees willing to work for equity shares, and even get a law firm comfortable working on IOU until your Big Idea takes off. Although it might feel suburban, Stross points out the valley is “geographically contained” by mountains and water, speculating this compression has accelerated vitality. After all, in the words of one venture capitalist, “Like a gas, entrepreneurship is hotter when compressed.”

Author: Rob Goodspeed


  1. It’s the kind of people that gather in one place that make it special, not the geography. That magic mix of ambitious young people and rich people looking to take risks makes the Bay Area, not the other way around. I see this principle everyday. Chicago has money, two great universities (Northwestern is as close to the city as Stanford is to San Francisco), and cheaper neighborhoods lining a dense downtown. But it doesn’t have the elan – technology people here are happy to work a job and read about new technologies from California over the web, and the business people are more conservative.

    Not to say that geography and development don’t play their part. The Valley is packed and so hideously built that all the good technology people I know live in San Francisco and sacrifice two to three hours of their day to driving or riding CalTrain. Another city that provided the same culture and critical mass (good luck) minus the commute would be hard to resist.

  2. Saxenian, whom they briefly quoted, has a book with a related explanation. Chiefly, that workers’ mobility led to (vis a vis Boston) a cross-fertilization of ideas and greater entrepreneurship.

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