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posted by martyb on Friday January 14, @04:23PM   Printer-friendly

The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley:

POLITICAL LEADERS HAVE been trying to replicate Silicon Valley’s high-tech magic since the invention of the microchip. A tech-curious Charles de Gaulle, then president of France, toured Palo Alto in his convertible limousine in 1960. Russian Federation President Dmitri Medvedev dressed business casual to meet and tweet with Valley social media tycoons in 2010. Hundreds of eager delegations, foreign and domestic, visited in between. “Silicon Valley,” inventor and entrepreneur Robert Metcalfe once remarked, “is the only place on earth not trying to figure out how to become Silicon Valley.”

In the US, too, leaders have long tried to engineer another Silicon Valley. Yet billions of dollars of tax breaks and “Silicon Something” marketing campaigns later, no place has matched the original’s track record for firm creation and venture capital investment—and these efforts often ended up benefiting multinational corporations far more than the regions themselves. Wisconsin promised more than $4 billion in tax breaks and subsidies to Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn in 2017, only to see plans for a $10 billion factory and 13,000 jobs evaporate after hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars had already been spent to prepare for Foxconn’s arrival. Amazon’s 2017 search for a second headquarters had 238 American cities falling over each other to woo one of the world’s richest corporations with tax-and-subsidy packages, only to see HQ2 go to two places Amazon likely would have chosen anyway because of their preexisting tech talent. One of the winners, Northern Virginia, promised Amazon up to $773 million in state and local tax subsidies—a public price tag for gleaming high-tech towers that seems especially steep as Amazon joins other tech giants in indefinitely pushing back post-pandemic plans to return to the office.

While the American tech industry is vastly larger than it used to be, the list of top tech clusters—the Bay Area, Seattle, Boston, Austin—has remained largely unchanged since the days of 64K desktop computers and floppy disks. Even the disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic have done little to alter this remarkably static and highly imbalanced tech geography.

[...] It wasn’t just tech policy that made these regions what they are, however. Social spending mattered too. In the prosperous postwar years, the GI Bill sent millions of veterans to college and helped them buy homes. States like California enlarged public higher education systems, making it easy to obtain a low-cost, top-flight university education. Schools and local infrastructure were well-funded, especially in the growing suburbs that many tech people and companies called home.

[...] The US government had a transformative impact on high-tech development when its leaders were willing to spend big money on research, advanced technology, and higher education—and keep at it for quite some time.

[...] The next Silicon Valley will not come from a race to the bottom, from who can offer the most tax cuts, the leanest government, the loosest regulations. It will result from the kind of broad, sustained public investment that built the original Valley.

[Based on a Book] The Code - SILICON VALLEY AND THE REMAKING OF AMERICA By MARGARET O’MARA

Why do you think "Silicon Valleys" elsewhere did not become as successful?


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  • (Score: 1, Troll) by VLM on Friday January 14, @06:29PM (4 children)

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Friday January 14, @06:29PM (#1212727)

    The funny part about that PG essay is its from the 00s talking about how Boston is dead for tech startups and Boston did kick off and grow some in the 10s but the article implies todays tech hubs have been tech hubs since 64K and floppy drives, whereas in reality the list is only about the last 5 or at most 10 years. I suppose Journalists don't make money anymore so in 2022 they're probably using 64K computers with floppy drives but everyone else moved on decades before anyone wanted anything to do tech in Boston of all places.

    The problem with VCs is they have an arrogance problem where the guy who picked the winning lottery ticket must have some secret sauce nobody else has that everyone has to feign respect for, whereas he's actually just a lucky bastard who got the good dice roll. The VC biz is just gambling for rich Jewish guys trying not to look like inveterate gamblers. Also they're still living in the 90s when your DNS server takes a capital investment of $125K SUNOS workstation cluster instead of SaaS $14/year or fuck it and spin up a free Amazon AWS instance to host and you're good. So in the 90s you needed "rich guys" to toss in $500K of bootstrap money in exchange for 50% of the company to buy and build a datacenter or similar palace of computation, but today actual innovation comes from some poor bastard whipping out the VISA and sending Amazon $5 and the VCs are like "well fuck I can't get on this action anymore". Silicon valley built a cloudy system for the world such that silicon valley is no longer needed.

    Another funny part of the article is the implication that blue haired SJW-first HR Karens are what successful tech employees look like, LOL. Yeah LOL not so much. Not the successful ones LOL. But that's what people thought a decade or two ago. All you need is leftist politics and lots of drugs and your business is a guaranteed success, or at least you can pivot into an urban coffee shop LOL.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by quietus on Friday January 14, @06:52PM (3 children)

    by quietus (6328) Subscriber Badge on Friday January 14, @06:52PM (#1212735) Journal

    Paul Graham is, ofcourse, not a journalist, but made his money through creating a startup, ViaWeb, along with Robert Morris (after he'd served his jail sentence for creating the Morris Worm). Their startup was bought out by then still cool Yahoo. He soon realized (once again) that he wasn't made for working in a big company and quit as soon as possible. Flush with a couple of millions in cash, Paul Graham later started Y Combinator, an early stage startup 'initializer'.

    He started writing his first essays in that intermediate period between Yahoo and Y Combinator.

    He isn't really interested in blue haired SJW-first HR Karens, by the way -- in fact, quite upset (quick example [paulgraham.com]) about the whole forced-thoughts-and-behavior thing: an obstruction to what makes startups (and the US) successful, in his opinion -- as you'll find out in his essays.

    As to your last para: I do feel your pain, though slightly different: every time a slightly technical computer thing comes up on the news, them journalists feel the need to drag up someone who (a) wears a t-shirt (better even: a hoody), (b) is visibly overweight and (c) hasn't shaven in quite the number of days, to come and explain to the proles. I guess we're lucky they don't force him (always a him, never a her) to wear oversized spectacles with plastic glasses.

    • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @08:34PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @08:34PM (#1212754)

      Hey, I know what hackers look like.
      I've seen "Hackers."

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hackers_(film) [wikipedia.org]

      They wear cool leather and skateboard around while sometimes typing something in green text. The girls look like Angelina Jolie. Is this less than accurate?

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @09:19PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @09:19PM (#1212769)

      Paul Graham is obviously intelligent and a hard worker, but he was in the right place at the right time to make his fortune. ViaWeb was a fairly obvious idea even at the time. The initial public adoption of the Web in the 1990s meant potentially "easy" money -- especially if you had a clue as to what you were doing, which many "Web businesses" did not -- but it is a moment of opportunity that, for the Internet, will never be repeated. Like another commenter said, someone gets "lucky" (although combined with hard work), and everyone assumes the guy is some sage whose wisdom can enable you to replicate his enormous success. Hell, guys like Graham know they are not going to get "lucky" again creating an Internet company which is why they frequently become VCs so they can spread their risk across many companies. Like many that have sufficient capital, he becomes a financier.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 17, @09:34AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 17, @09:34AM (#1213364)
      lol I remember Paul Graham basically claiming their secret sauce was Lisp ( http://www.paulgraham.com/avg.html ).

      Now count how many of the top web sites in the world use mostly Lisp to do the stuff they do.

      I see a lot more PHP. I don't like PHP but point is you should be able to get another successful "Paul Graham" to say their secret sauce was PHP.

      So I'd take Paul Graham's "wisdom" with a dollop of salt.