What is it that makes Silicon Valley and the Bay Area such a hot bed of technological innovation and billion dollar companies? The answer is simple, there’s a matrix in existence there that both supports and drives the area’s phenomenal success.
This matrix is mature and it’s also hard to replicate. At its roots it has heavy investment by the US military after World War II which led to the early business successes of the area, such as that of HP and Apple. Built on these significant beginnings, the region now enjoys a vast network of interconnected people, companies, technologies and cash. Unlike many other business centres in the world, a lot of the money here is in hands of the very people and institutions that made the area rich in the first place. Many of the business angels and venture capitalists in the area were once running their own start-ups and matured companies – some still are! They are not just entrepreneurs but also often engineers and technologists. This means they have unique experience and insight into the companies, individuals and markets they are investing in. This probably reduces their risk and it definitely makes them more likely to take them.
The matrix is also packed with talent, San Fancisco and Silicon Valley are seething with it. Engineers, programmers and brilliant entrepreneurs seem to ooze out of the area’s every pore. Go to a party there and you’ll be rubbing shoulders with people who can, have or will start and run successful companies.
[Glenn Le Santo and Swipp's Kristie Wells]
Unlike in some business sectors, where secrecy and protectionism abound, this is a sharing place. People I met during my tour all spoke of the support network that exists here. If you have a problem and you share it, someone will come along and help you fix it. It has been suggested that this help one-another and pay forward culture has its roots in open source software development – particularly UNIX. Whatever the origin of it, there’s no doubt it is here and that it is both mature and effective.
The sheer level of successes perpetuates the can-do attitude that is so prevalent here. When you’re surrounded by people who have tried and tried again until they succeed, you cannot help but feel inspired to give it a proper go yourself.
Other areas wanting to replicate the success of the Valley have a long journey on their hands. You simply cannot build this matrix overnight and if you don’t put the right elements in place right from the beginning then the matrix won’t develop.
The matrix is self-perpetuating, which suggest it also has longevity. The more people that go there to try and succeed, then the more help and support the next wave of entrepreneurs will have access to.
There’s a powerful force in the region, like a high voltage electrical mains circuit. Merely landing at San Francisco airport seems to plug you into it, you feel charged with inspiration as soon as you arrive and start mingling with some of the people in the region.
Can the Valley keep hold of its crown? For all the reasons I have given above it is unlikely to lose it soon. However, history has shown that all empires eventually decline. But for the next decade at least, I doubt any other area can match it. The jury’s out as far as who it might be that eventually claims the Valley’s position as world leaders in innovation – but most of the smart money is probably on China.