Don’t Be The Valley

I was talking to a reporter from The Arizona Republic about the upcoming Phoenix Startup Weekend.  The questions was on the line of

Some business owners here feel that’s the reason why Arizona has had trouble building a thriving technology community with readily available capital and other resources. What do you think?

Which is a great question that almost every tech community I have been to in the last year and a half has had to ask themselves.  Perhaps a look at Atlanta will teach you just how much this is needed, and how hard it is.

But then comes the following question:

Why do you think <city name> is not developing into something like the Silicon Valley.

Almost every reporter I have talked to, from Boston to Greece, has said something similar.

My answer was pretty direct.  It shouldn’t be.

Boulder Colorado

Your community should have it’s own style, reflective of the geographic and cultural norms.  You should grow as big as you can dream.

Brad Feld says about this issue:

Over the years, I’ve asserted that Colorado has no business trying to “be like” Silicon Valley.   There are lots of things that Colorado can learn from Silicon Valley and a lot of them are happening / being created in Boulder right now.  However, it’s a great example of the cliche of “applying best practices” (where Boulder is learning from and applying the best practices of Silicon Valley) rather than strict emulation.

Comparing your tech community to Silicon Valley is like being a horse and watching a unicorn on TV and saying “Wow, it can fly!.”

The Valley has done some pretty magical things.  Amazing things.  They still do.  But the majority of our tech community doesn’t live in the Valley, and doesn’t need to to create or take part in great technology and startups.

Work on building something great.  Work on building something big.

But for the love of the web, don’t compare yourself to a Unicorn, it makes you look just a bit crazy.

Build your tech community.  Value your leaders, your talent, your characters, your friends, your upstarts, your funders, your hecklers and yourselves for being in and building your community.

Put on an Ignite, BarCamp, Startup Weekends, Refresh, MeetUp, TechCocktail, Tweetups, something crazy, create a fantastic local blog or just create your own event.

Build it up.  I love the thought of 40 strong tech communites leading the pack.



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9 responses to “Don’t Be The Valley”

  1. Tac Anderson Avatar
    Tac Anderson

    Amen, brother. I'm the EIR at Highway 12 Ventures, located in Boise, ID that invests throughout the Rocky Mountain area. I also run the blog where I talk about tech in the Boise area. I couldn't agree more. I think most decent sized cities want/need a thriving tech community, there are obvious huge economic benefits. But each area needs to find it's focus. I see a lot of AgTech happening in Boise as well as GreenTech, due to the Idaho National Laboratory. Finding your strengths as a community and applying it to tech is critical. What are the universities in your area doing for R&D? What are some of the likely spin-offs or people leaving the already established tech companies in the area? It doesn't all have to be IT and Web. I think the reason most areas don't have a thriving tech community is because no one is leading the effort. It's a multi-front battle to create the right ecosystem which takes a community wide effort. And it takes time and patients (something entrepreneurs aren't historically good at).

  2. Brian Burns Avatar
    Brian Burns

    dude, I love the style here. the blog writing is getting better as the blog design gets better.

  3. jamesoclark Avatar

    Couldn't agree more. The comment I often get from other business owners when they relocate here (Boulder) from Silicon Valley is that everyone is willing to help each other. The competition is cleaner and more respectful. The community is interested in overall success and not as individualistic or cut throat. I've been witness to someone who had previous success in growing a company in Silicon Valley come into the this community and fail. Whose to say if was the biz model, the leadership style, the way the company conducted itself in the community. But I can say, that individual did not make many friends. Not to say one community is better than the other, we're all different. But there is something to say about embracing the energy and ethos within each community.

  4. Andrew Hyde Avatar
    Andrew Hyde

    Makes it easier to write 🙂

  5. Brian Burns Avatar
    Brian Burns

    nice… presentation matters, apparently both for readers and writers. that'll turn into a blog post or two for me at some point.

  6. Andrew Hyde Avatar
    Andrew Hyde

    Ok, road trip time to Boise! Your last paragraph is spot on. Spot on.

  7. Andrew Hyde Avatar
    Andrew Hyde

    Yes Boulder is amazing, and yes there are amazing places all around the world for startups.

  8. Greg Berry Avatar
    Greg Berry

    Hey Andrew, thanks for the post. I've been a bit of a one-man crusade on this issue for over a decade. Put down roots here and passed on many lucrative and ladder-climbing opportunities on both coasts. Now we are rocking away on the Angel Capital Summit, and the Town Hall meeting at the end of the day (still under wraps — getting 'released' next week) will be a unique chance for the breadth of the Colorado investing and entrepreneurial community to come together and collectively map the future of entrepreneurship, from energy to clean tech to health to web 2.0 to sustainability and more. It's pretty rewarding having focused my energy on this type of convergence to see it coming alive as a fascinating counter-balance to the stock market calamities of past weeks. Hope we'll see you at ACS.

  9. sean Avatar

    I find you comments interesting since your firm dumped (and many loyal users would say ruined) the company @Last Software (makers of SketchUp) to Silicon Valley 'borg machine' Google as soon as the price was right. You say "strengths as a community and applying it to tech is critical" but then cash out to Silicon Valley ASAP. Sounds pretty hypocritical to me.

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