Jul

8

Interesting article by Vivek Wadhwa in Technology Review "Silicon Valley can't be copied".

(Regrettably omitting the role of resourceful governance).

By 1960, Silicon Valley had already captured the attention of the world as a teeming technology center. […] French president Charles de Gaulle paid a visit and marveled at its sprawling research parks set amid farms and orchards south of San Francisco.

Soon enough, other regions were trying to copy the magic. The first serious attempt to re-create Silicon Valley was conceived by a consortium of high-tech companies in New Jersey in the mid-1960s. [The plan] could not get off the ground, largely because industry would not collaborate.

In 1990, Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter proposed a new method of creating regional innovation centers. […] Sadly, the magic never happened—anywhere. Hundreds of regions all over the world collectively spent tens of billions of dollars trying to build their versions of Silicon Valley.

The reasons [for Silicon Valley's unique success] were, at their root, cultural.

Californian Stefan Jovanovich adds:

There is an element that is not mentioned. California, for better or worse, has always been the place people went to strike it rich. People came to Silicon Valley for the same reason they went up into the Sierras or stayed in San Francisco and sold shovels in the 1850s - they intended to make their fortune, not just get a "good job" (pun intended). What literally disgusts those of us who loved the place is that the same greed exists today but the enterprise is almost entirely directed to fleecing the government in the name of (pick one) "curing cancer, saving the environment, some other socially responsible activity that just happens to attract a good deal of non-profit and government cash". As one of our friends, who left for Idaho a decade ago, said, "Sleaze is always a part of the hustle that comes with "making it new"; but now the whole state is the music business without any new music - everything is just sampling what has already been done and filing a claim to protect what was not even invented in the first place."

Carder Dimitrioff speculates:

Actually, it could be argued that Silicon Valley is a replication of Boston. Up until the Nixon Administration, the greater Boston area was the nation's technology highway. Fed by Lincoln Labs, MIT, Harvard, Northeastern University, Boston University, Boston College, University of Massachusetts, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Clark, Rensselaer and other great technology centers, companies like MITRE, DEC, Polaroid, WANG, and dozens others popped up all over Boston's Route 128.

Then, Massachusetts became the "one and only" state not to vote for Nixon in 1972. Nixon was from California. Silicon Valley is in California. Maybe there is a connection?

Peter Saint-Andre writes:

I forwarded this article to Jim Bennett (co-author of "America 3.0") and he noted:

"One of the under-appreciated factors was Stanford's rule that allowed professors to work part-time for companies and take stock options in pay. Most universities forbid that as being vulgar, as gentlemen are not supposed to engage in trade."

Carder Dimitroff replies:

In my experience, most technology professors in the Boston area were part-time academics. Most wanted to start their companies based on their areas of interest. Most Boston area universities allowed such.

EG&G is an early example. The letters represent the names of three MIT professors. My dad was one of their first ten employees. He worked under Doc Edgerton - not in MIT or Lincoln Labs, but in EG&G, Inc. This was decades ago.

One of my beefs with MIT is their lack of dedicated faculty. Even professors in their Sloan School spend most of their time in consulting firms. A lot of their faculty seem like they are adjunct professors.


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