After having told you all about our adventures and discoveries on a daily basis, it is now time to look back and try to sum up everything that we’ve seen. The trip has been really great, but what will I actually take away from it? What are my memories of Silicon Valley?
The best way to do this assessment is undoubtedly to go back over the questions we were asking ourselves at the start and throughout the trip: “Is Silicon Valley still innovative?”, “What makes Silicon Valley what it is?”
To start off, I won’t personally make the distinction between Silicon Valley strictly speaking and San Francisco. If you’re objective enough, the conditions that lead a company to succeed are more or less the same… (no doubt some purists will be quick to disagree but I’m choosing to not make the distinction).
To me, it seems indisputable that Silicon Valley continues to show innovation and to act like a magnet for innovative companies around the world. There are many reasons for this, which are all interconnected. Understanding or replicating what happens there is like answering the problem of the Chicken and the Egg… So what are the components?
A step ahead on trends
Silicon Valley often allows you to spot trends quicker than anywhere else. Your co-working neighbor or one of your friends’ roommates could be in the process of creating the next Facebook. How long would it have taken for you to discover this if you had to wait for it to go global when it’s eventually covered by Techcrunch or Hacker News?
Money isn’t everything, but it helps things move along more quickly. It’s ‘easy’ to raise money here if you have a good team (in the end I think that this is the only criteria).
Very good profiles
Here we have a perfect example of the ‘chicken and the egg’. There is a very high concentration of talent, such as developers, UX designers, etc. If you have money and you know what you’re doing, you’ll have great people working for you. And why are they all here? Because you can find the ‘hottest’ products here, they will be very well paid and everything possible is done to ensure the best working conditions (health insurance, food and drink at hand, choice of work equipment, flexible hours, etc.).
A population of ‘early adopters’
Another advantage of being in the Valley is that you find ‘early adopters’, which thus allows you to find your first users or clients. In terms of B2C, the local population here is used to signing up to new services, and traction can very quickly follow.
But it’s also beneficial for B2B. When we met some of the companies developed at Citrix, they told us that the big companies in the Valley don’t hesitate to use the very latest solutions if it can give them a competitive advantage. This is far from being the case for many French-based companies, for example.
Infrastructure that favors mentoring
I’m talking about universities, business incubators, accelerators, co-workings, networking events, etc. All this does a huge amount for entrepreneurs.
The final fundamental element is the density of people working in this ecosystem. It is so dense that everyone is only one or two connections away from the person they need (investor, client, associate, employee, etc.).
In assessing the conditions that help explain the Valley’s success, I’m undoubtedly stating the obvious in places. But what’s important to remember is that if just one of these elements was missing, then the attraction of the place would decrease. And for those who are wondering how to replicate Silicon Valley on a smaller scale in other cities/countries, you need to understand that it’s about the whole package, not just the access to capital! So if we want to replicate the same dynamism in France then, in addition to making moves towards the important aspect of financing, we need to get our technical schools to direct their students more towards web-based careers rather than IT services. We also need to make sure that our startups stay in France, that we make the network more dense, and most importantly, with regards to B2C and B2B, develop this ‘early adopter’ spirit.