Can we replicate Silicon Valley of the 90s in the internet era?

The reading I’m responding to is Regional Advantage by AnnaLee Saxenian, specifically Chapters 1 and 2.  Since this was written nearly 20 years ago (1996), I have a few questions:

  1. Is the entrepreneurship and spark of collaboration seen in the Valley still there with companies like Google and Apple dominating?
  2. What is the next Silicon Valley? Not in computing but in paradigm-busting innovation.
  3. Do Google and Apple, like IBM before them, run the risk of being eaten alive by groups of hungry start ups?

It is interesting that Apple and Google are studied for their unique work environments that seem to keep the feeling of the scrappy youth of Silicon Valley.[1] They have brought the external collaboration that identified the Valley within their walls.  However Google seems to be more open and collegial than Apple.  Apple is well known for its secrecy to the outside world and peer review is more checks and balances than open collaboration.  Information about the working atmosphere is only from people who no longer work there[2].  Google has even pollinated east[3] and works to create the same atmosphere in all of its offices around the world.[4]

Searching for “the next Silicon Valley” – yes, I Googled it – has various cities vying for the interest of tech-minded companies and employees: Chicago, Orlando, Miami, Las Vegas.[5]  But in the push to be next, the highlights are about the infrastructure support and local amenities not the corporate culture, or lack thereof, that created the valley in the first place.

Where are the upstarts now?  Who is fighting to be David to the Goliaths of tech?  There are many small specialized groups and often there is collaboration but it is mostly virtual.  The myth of the pen, napkin and a beer to create the “next new thing” is based in truth.  Even when no alcohol is involved, your brain shifts and is freed when you are in a social environment; something you can’t get in an office or through video chat.

It appears that the grownups of Silicon Valley have a comfortable seat but disruption will happen and it will be interesting to see what collaborative culture will come with it.

[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-what-employees-really-love-about-working-for-apple-2012-6?op=1

[2] http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2013/10/10/apple-employees-dish-secrets-quora/

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/16/business/at-google-a-place-to-work-and-play.html?_r=0

[4] http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/10-insights-from-11-months-of-working-at-google/

[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/05/upshot/what-is-the-next-next-silicon-valley.html?abt=0002&abg=1

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