Friday, January 21, 2011

Silicon Valley Envy

Because I am a regular at the Minneapolis BootStrapper's Breakfast, I am a member of the Bootstrapper's Breakfast Yahoo group which is, understandably, dominated by entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley, where the group originated.  I receive a lot of unreadable spam from this group, but once in a while there is a provocative discussion that get's me going (like that is super difficult?)

A couple of days ago, someone posted a question that made me cringe because I knew what would happen next.  The question was,

"If new and/or traveling into Silicon Valley, what was the one most surprising thing you found about our region?"

Based on the responses that came flooding back in, apparently, though not surprisingly if you have ever spent time there, this question was interpreted to actually be asking...

"What makes Silicon Valley so much better than everywhere else in the world?"

A group member named Sashaov responded with:

"The fact that literally everybody in the computer technology field is located here, with just a few exceptions.”

I'm not a coder, so I'm not sure why this pissed me off to the degree that it did, but this kind of thinking and mindset is what I remember most about living out there, and why any entrepreneur who has lived there, then left to start their business somewhere else in America, throws up in their mouth a little, when you say “Silicon Valley.”

 The complete self-absorption, lack of perspective, rampant hyperbole and irrationality run-amok, that made me want to run screaming from “The City,” is exactly the kind of drivel that drives entrepreneurs from other parts of the world, to the 101 corridor.  The cultrepreneurs out there are their own self-perpetuating PR machine and in many cases, their own worst enemy.

I freely admit that I lived there during the absolute worst time to get an objective view of the scene; during the dot-com boom.  However, each time I go back to visit, I get a disgusting booster-dose of entitlement and self-sycophancy.  The attitude that there is "no place else on earth better than Silicon Valley" and there cannot possibly be a concentration of smart, capable entrepreneurs anywhere else on the globe, that could ever rival the Sand Hill Road coffee-house-crew, is so insular and narrow-minded that it even makes me yearn for the horribly frigid winters of the Upper Midwest. 

At least here, while we freeze our collective asses off, we have the common sense to be cognizant that the rest of the world (including SF & Silicon Valley) may indeed house a few people who are smarter than us. (which they prove by being smart enough not to live anywhere that the temp routinely drops to 15-below-zero for days-at-a-time.)

There are SO MANY people here in the Midwest, and in the Twin Cities in particular, for whom the Dream of Silicon Valley is so strong, that they think the streets of Palo Alto are littered with $50 million term sheets, where entrepreneurs get to keep 90% of the company they started 2 weeks ago.  Most of the local “entrepreneurs” that have this terminal case of “SV Envy,” have never even been there. (and usually have only talked about starting a company) 

We all sit here in our networking meetings and start-up bitch sessions, whining about how much better off we would probably be if we were in SV.  But what we choose not to acknowledge, or simply don’t know, is that the mortgage on a 3 bedroom house in the suburbs here, is about the same amount you pay for 150 sf. of roach-motel out west.  We don't seem to care that driving 7 miles to work in "The Valley" takes about an hour-and-a-half, instead of ten minutes.  We don't recognize that folks in Palo Alto are paying $0.40 more for a single gallon-of-gas, than we are here, and that a cup of coffee at one of the vaunted Mountain View coffee shops where, supposedly, all the cool entrepreneurs hang out and talk about the millions they are making, or going to make, costs twice as much as the same cup of coffee bought in Minneapolis (and here it is usually served by someone who you might even be friends with)

So I encourage the folks from Silicon Valley to keep on thinking that it is such a special place that it would be impossible for someone to be successful anywhere else.

After all, it would be ludicrous to think  that a kid from Pittsburg, who had gone to Northwestern to study music, then dropped out of grad school to build a start-up in, of all god-awful places (gasp), Chicago, could make it work.  It would be a certifiable miracle, if that company raised $165 million from VC’s in Silicon Valley (and Moscow), hired more than 1,000 people and turned down $6.5 BILLION from Google because they knew they could make a lot more by waiting to go through an IPO.

NAH, that could NEVER HAPPEN; nobody in the Midwest becomes successful.  Nope, not in a million years, because...

"Literally everybody in the computer technology field is located here, with just a few exceptions.”

1 comment:

  1. One of the entrepreneurs is in Duluth lol


Darren Cox

Darren Cox
Founder and Chief Evangelist - CaSTT - Commerce and Search for Technology Transfer