The Rumors of Silicon Valley's Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Everywhere in the world is trying to be the “next” Silicon Valley. Prior to visiting, I assumed that meant that the “original” SV was on its way out.

Having finally seen it firsthand: Silicon Valley is in absolutely zero danger of going anywhere any time soon.

Don't get me wrong, there is lots wrong with modern-day SV. I've written about some of it, and I'll write some more, but essentially I do truly fear for the long-term future of Silicon Valley. And I know that sounds hyperbolic, but the reason I fear for its future is because the world badly needs the concept of Silicon Valley, and nothing else even comes close to the original at the moment, warts and all.

In the short-term, though, SV is safe. Here's why: Institutional knowledge combined with institutional resources. I had read about this before visiting, but it's extremely difficult to understand without seeing it firsthand. The valley has decades of inertia behind it, and the amount of deeply ingrained knowledge about how tech startups are supposed to work has an almost anthropological quality to it; it's reminiscent of tribal lore.

Even the most junior participants in the SV tech scene have an instinctive and almost visceral sense of how things are supposed to work. The average participant in SV understands the VC model better than most institutional investors outside of it. (I hesitated writing that, because it seemed impossible, but upon reflection I'm convinced it's true.) The average participant in SV understands the scale-up playbook better than most entrepreneurs outside of it.

All of this knowledge is reinforced by hundreds of thousands of participants, who each have friends/roommates/siblings with similar experiences at Netflix/Facebook/Apple/Amazon/Google and who are frequently comparing notes.

Technologists in SV have a deep understanding of what's already been tried elsewhere, what works and what doesn't. This is deeper than staying caught up on Hacker News - again, it's a tribal effect. Knowledge is shared quickly and the entire ecosystem benefits from it. There is no hiring pool outside of SV which is even 1/10th as capable or diverse in knowledge as the people available in SV. (That is not at all to say that there aren't extremely capable people outside of SV, and I think learning to leverage those people is going to become even more important to SV companies than it is currently - I have a lot to say about satellite offices and remote employees as well, but that is a different post.)

What I'm trying to say is that Silicon Valley is a giant snowball rolling down a mountain, and it's getting bigger all the time. It's never going to slow down - if anything, one day it might explode. In the meantime, we should absolutely continue trying to replicate it, because one day we might need to.