Career and Money Advice At The Intersection Of Business And Technology

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Is starting a company in Silicon Valley stupid?

March 22nd, 2009 · 5 Comments

Penelop Truck wrote that Starting a company in the Silicon Valley is stupid. It is such a controversial and provocative title that it got a lot of attention.

I went to high school and college in the bay area. I worked in high tech companies in the Silicon Valley for over a decade. But, seven years ago, I made the decision to move away from the Silicon Valley. I’m now living in the Pacific Northwest.

I  miss a lot of people and things in the Silicon Valley. But, I also enjoy my current living and working environments. It’s simply more affordable and provides higher quality of life.

Suffice to say, I have a love-and-hate relationship with the Silicon Valley. ๐Ÿ™‚

I would like to share with you my thoughts on the pluses and minuses of Silicon Valley, and whether starting a company in Silicon Valley is stupid.

What I miss about Silicon Valley

  • my extended family, friends, and classmates
  • attend Cal football and basketball games ๐Ÿ™‚
  • talking to ambitious, driven, smart, and creative entrepreneurs. There are probably more entrepreneurs per square foot in the Silicon Valley than anywhere else. It’s an infectious entrepreneurial environment you cannot find anywhere else.
  • professional networking events. I live in another high tech hub now. But, the amount of high tech networking events in my area pale in comparison to th events in the Silicon Valley. 
  • career opportunities. There are significantly more career opportunities in the Silicon Valley for anyone who works in high tech. From large, publically traded companies to start-ups, you’ll find many more opportunities in the valley. From a purely career opportunity standpoint, Silicon Valley is much better than where I’m living now.
  • the start-up culture — I completely agree with SmoothSpan Blog that "the cultural value, the total gestalt of startup immersion, is even more valuable."

What I don’t miss about Silicon Valley

  • VC worshippers. Venture Capitalists play a very important role in the start-up ecosystems. But, I know a lot of people who simply worship VCs. 
  • intense pressure and mentality of  "making it big and then retire" 
  • high housing price
  • countless strip malls and office parks in the Silicon Valley — I might offend someone here, but I find Silicon Valley to be boring and soulless socially and culturally. ๐Ÿ™‚
  • long commute on 101, 880, or 280
  • single scene in the Silicon Valley. I’m happily married. But, I still have a lot of single friends who live in the Silicon Valley. It’s depressing.

Is it stupid to start a company in Silicon Valley? I think it depends on your goal for starting the company, and the type of company you’re starting.

If your goal is to follow the footsteps of "classic Silicon Valley successes" — i.e. revolutionary technology, big bet, VC funding, etc. — you should start your company in Silicon Valley.

However, if your goal is to start a "life style" business that you hope to provide for your family while enjoy being your own boss and achieving work/life balance, then I think you’re probably better off to start the company outside Silicon Valley.

Update: 3/25/2009: Scobleizer just had a related post on this topic: โ€œIs California setup for a brain drain?โ€

Tags: Start-up Success

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 TedHoward // Mar 22, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    I've moved in the opposite direction, having spent 8 years in Seattle and now nearly 1 year in San Francisco. I have many more thoughts on the differences, having also lived in other cities. Most of the differences I notice relate to the culture of the people rather than the sructure of the economy.
    The number of people who want to start a company in the Bay area is unbelievable until you see it. The same is true for the number of tech-related social events. There are definitely plenty of jobs due to the money flowing from LPs to VCs to startups to employees. I believe that Andrew Chen said that you can't find a good engineer in San Francisco, you have to import them. Also, I've never heard anyone argue that Silicon Valley is not full of stripmalls, so I think that's a fair characterization.
    I find that the culture of Seattle is more about enjoying the outdoors than building startups. I see it as more of an REI city than a VC city. It's also one of the best-read and highly-educated cities in the country, so the discussions while snowshoeing or kayaking the islands can be quite intense.
    I'll bet you miss the sunshine, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • 2 GeekMBA360 // Mar 23, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Thanks, Ted. I think your “REI city vs. VC City” characterization is right on! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • 3 TedHoward // Mar 23, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Being from Seattle, whenever I hear a San Francisco proudly declare that they don't own a car, my first thought is always, “Then how do you get out of the city to enjoy all the beautiful nature in the area?!”
    It's sunny today. I think Mount Tamalpais might be calling my name.

  • 4 TedHoward // Mar 24, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Just remembered a good, related, Paul Graham essay:

  • 5 TedHoward // Mar 24, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Just remembered a good, related, Paul Graham essay:

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