The world has been trying to replicate the Silicon Valley for years. 2015 is the year when it will happen and the world will be a better place.
Silicon Valley is a magnet for copycats. That is, people come to the Valley from all over the world in the hopes of copying what occurs here and taking the secret sauce back home. I have entertained scores of groups here who hope they can capture the magic. There have been Russians, Ohioans, New Yorkers, Australians, Academicians and Big Bankers to name a few. My favorite was a French contingent that found great irony in the fact that “entrepreneur” is a French word but there is very little in the way of an entrepreneurial culture in France.
A tour of Silicon Valley can be disappointing because there is not that much to see. Sure, there are a few tech museums and the garage where Hewlett and Packard started but by in large, the Valley is composed of modern buildings shaped by dark glass with company logos on the signs out front. So the modus operandi of any tour guide is to proclaim that “Silicon Valley is a way of life. It is a new way of thinking that is impossible to replicate but go ahead, give it a try.”
Generic comments about the requirements to build a center for innovation include: access to capital, access to talent and a strong ecosystem of support services.
All of that may be true, but things are changing more than a little. Here’s why:
- Entrepreneurs are younger and more flexible. The typical innovation worker now is not a 35-year-old who wants security and benefits. The innovation worker now is a 25-year-old who runs when he or she hears the phrase, “It’s a great place to raise a family.”
- The same 25-year-olds want lots of things to do like going to bars and meeting people of a similar ilk. Activities and social life is why the Northern California Silicon Valley morphed into San Francisco. This is good news for cities like Dublin, Minneapolis, Vancouver, Toronto and Seattle, to name a few.
- Technology makes it easier than ever to start a company in any location – even if there is no innovation infrastructure there. Good news for much of the world.
- Equity is a concept that is now better understood and embraced in locations other than Northern California. Equity — and the promise of owning a piece of what one creates — is the engine that drives innovation.
None of this means that California’s Silicon Valley will lose its edge or go away. It means that other places can be proud of what they have and stop trying to copy what exists in Northern California.
So 2015 will be the year when places around the world will recognize that the path to creating an innovation center is not as complicated as has long been understood. In fact, many cities are now a center for innovation, they just don’t recognize it and build on it. And, there is no need to create names like Silicon Deserts or Silicon Mountain Tops; we know a center for innovation and entrepreneurship when we see one.
More centers of innovation will impact communities and economies in a positive way – and who can argue with that?