Startup Hotbed Inferiority Complex
I spent this week in the startup hotbeds of San Francisco and Seattle. Last night, I participated in a fun event called Naked Truth put together by leading Seattle entrepreneurs.
It was a wide ranging conversation about Internet business models and how to make money on the Net.
But at the end of the night, the 'silicon valley' question came out. A participant in the audience wanted to know if it was crazy not to do his startup in Silicon Valley. This is what I call the startup hotbed insecurity complex. Deep down inside, every entrepreneur working outside of the bay area worries that they are not as competitive and will not be as successful because they are not in Silicon Valley.
Many of the panelists had flown up from the bay area and pointed out how most of the important tech companies have come out of the bay area. Mike Arrington suggested the question wasn't even worth the time we were spending on it.
To which I responded that the idea that you cannot build an important tech company outside of Silicon Valley is 'a crock of shit'. Somehow that line was tweeted numerous times as 'silicon valley is a crock of shit' which I found humorous.
Let's look at the facts. Seattle has produced Microsoft and Amazon. Boston has produced DEC and Lotus. Austin produced Dell. NYC produced Bloomberg and Doubleclick. Europe has produced SAP and Skype. I'm doing this at 5am on my blackberry on the redeye because I can't sleep so my examples are what I can muster at this moment. I could do better with a clear head and an Internet connection.
But the point is this. Not every great tech company comes out of Silicon Valley and you don't have to be there to be a successful entrepreneur. For all the benefits of Silicon Valley, like density of great engineers and VCs, you have negatives like hypercompetition for talent and the creative cost of living in an echo chamber.
Tim O'Reilly sent me a comment via twitter on my most recent freemium post. He said he likes the perl motto "TMTOWTDI" which means "there's more than one way to do it"
When asked to summarize my thoughts on business models at the end of last night's panel, I said "there's more than one way to do it"
And the same is true of locating your startup. You can build a great startup in any of the dozen to two dozen startup hotbeds around the world. Pick a place you want to live and work and possibly raise a family. And then get busy.