For many years, I have been famously (or notoriously) anti-Silicon Valley. There’s nothing wrong with the place in iteself; what I detested was the snobbish notion that the Valley is the de facto or “best” place to run a startup or be involved with the tech world.
I’m now forced to eat my words as my hetero life mate and I prepare to move into a Burlingame apartment conveniently located a few blocks away from the startup he’s now working at; I have to admit, living in the Bay Area has been amazing so far, in professional and personal terms.
Still, if I were starting a company, would I move from Omaha or Nashville or Boulder to come to the Valley? Would you?
UPDATE: It seems the Chatroulette creator is having the same dilemma. How’s that for unwitting timeliness?
Back when I started the Never Mind the Valley series, I was fascinated by communities such as Boulder and Los Angeles. The tech scenes are smaller and more easily navigable, and most people are willing and excited to collaborate. When contrasting these areas with the SF Bay Area, NorCal seemed vast, cold, inflated and self-important by comparison.
For months, I railed, “You don’t have to be in the Valley to have a successful startup!” Examples of this abound, from Austin’s Gowalla to L.A.’s Mahalo to the dozens of incubated and accelerated teams in cities all over the country.
However, on moving to San Francisco, I quickly learned a few of the benefits of being a startup in the Valley. Everything moves much faster. You have more access to more capital. The depth, breadth and strength of the developer pool is unparalleled. Everyone has a fairly public track record. Yes, it can be an insular and self-aggrandizing little echo chamber of Mutual Admiration Society nitwits at times, but I’m no longer saying that the benefits don’t outweigh the cost.
Ah, yes – the cost. Living in the Bay Area is, to employ a common NorCalism, hella expensive. Salaries are higher, real estate is more scarce and more spendy, the overall cost of living borders on obscene unless you’re used to, say, Tokyo. But again, perhaps for many startups situated here, the benefits outweigh the financial costs, as well.
So, I’m left wondering exactly what alchemy makes the benefits worth all the costs for a startup. I’ve been asked by a few companies about transitioning from other states and even other countries to the Valley, and my advice has tended to be a mixed bag lately.
I’m interested to hear from startups living in and outside of Silicon Valley: When do you think being in SF is worth it, and when is it wiser to stay put? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.