Technology

Silicon Valley

Perhaps the strongest thread that runs through the Valley’s past and present is the drive to “play” with novel technology, which, when bolstered by an advanced engineering degree and channeled by astute management, has done much to create the industrial powerhouse we see in the Valley today.

— Timothy J. Sturgeon

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I didn’t have official business in the San Francisco Bay area but I wanted to go see for myself what is going on in this part of the world. There’s something truly unique going on there. I had to go. Some of the companies that have a major influence on our life are all located in the area. Silicon Valley, the nickname for the region, is populated with the Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Intel of the world. Even traditional brick and mortar businesses like Walmart have a presence with a tech lab. I don’t think we realize how much these companies have penetrated our daily lives. We use their products all the time. We use our iPhone to go on Facebook or Youtube. Google Maps to get around. On a flight, Netflix and the iPad are great at averting a kid crisis. Our methods of communication, work, and the way we get our entertainment are all in the hands of a couple companies. And is it a coincidence that they are all located in the same area? How did that happened?

Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley, California. Credit: By Samykolon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Silicon Valley is a unique place. It’s a place of dreamers. The belief is that if you can think it, you can code it. And if you can code it, you can make products that will improve our lives. Silicon Valley has the ability of attracting the smartest brains. The region has everything to gets things done. Money is not an issue with its legions of venture capital funds looking to fund the next big revolutionary idea. Some of the best schools in the world, Berkeley and Stanford, are located there. It attracts and retains some of the smartest people in the world. Silicon Valley has created this virtuous circle of attracting money and brains that build companies that improve our lives.

Every region wants to replicate Silicon Valley. But they can’t. They will have their own thing but nothing close to it. Plenty of places have the money and the brains but they can’t clone it. Why is that? Culture is part of the answer.

Silicon Valley is about inventing things. They are creating things we don’t even know if we need. Silicon Valley has been at it since the 50s. Computing’s history, and the pioneers behind it all have a trace here. Great innovation use to originate from places like Bell Lab. Now it comes from the thousands of engineers in the valley. It takes 20-30 years to build up the sort of talent infrastructure found in Silicon Valley. No time soon in other words. But Silicon Valley is not a monopoly on innovation. To be sure, pockets of innovation have emerged on a smaller scale elsewhere, like outside Boston or Waterloo in Ontario. But the special trait that distinguishes Silicon Valley’s firms from ordinary companies is the ability to integrate their innovation strategies with their business strategies.

Coding

I’m not a venture capitalists. In one way I would like to be one but it is really hard to be good at it. It would be fun to fund the ideas that could become the next generation of companies. However that kind of investing is totally different from what I do. To be a good venture capitalist I think you need to be a good entrepreneur first. You need that special fiber. Venture capital is very important. Venture capital has a positive societal value as investors fuel the growth for which change can take place.

I was only in the area for three days and I’m already planning to come back. During my visit I got a feeling of the place. In cafes most laptops have some kind of coding screen open. Conversations around me were about software and tech I didn’t fully grasp. They take about software like we talk about sports. I visited the campus of Google and the Apple Spaceship. I also checked out Hacker Dojo and other startup co-working spaces where interesting things are happening. I recommend every the trip. San Francisco Bay area is a great place. Here are some pics:

Dojo Hacker

Feel free to help put the robot together. At Dojo Hacker.

Hacker Dojo 2

The table where ideas become tangible. At Dojo Hacker.

Startups

A bunch of startups at coworking space Hanahaus.