How long does Silicon Valley have?

by Simon St. Laurent

Living in a place that used to think of itself as the bright future of America, it's strange to me how people think that particular places will be the bright future.


SoCal Resident
2007-10-15 08:55:46
All of California is threatened by transportation, energy, and water issues. The political deadlock in Sacramento means that little or no state guidance can be expected. Thus, future-aware Californians, whether in San Jose or San Bernardino, have to look to regional solutions for these issues.

Like the Los Angeles area's surge was boosted by DWP and MWD water projects in the 1930s, the future strength of Silicon Valley depends upon the region taking bold steps to ensure enough water and power and to stop congestion cold.

It all depends upon the locals realizing that something has changed and resolving to respond to the changes. Otherwise, the area's future could look a lot like present-day Detroit.

I know I am hoping for a similar awakening in Southern Cal.

Jason Sares
2007-10-15 10:45:55
I have lived in LA, Cleveland, Austin, and worked in a few other cities and none have compared to the South Bay in job opportunities in IT.

I just moved to Sunnyvale a few months ago and I got a job in 72 hours. Literally I moved here on a Sunday went on two job interviews on Monday and got both offers. I accepted the best one for me on Tuesday and started work the next week.

I don't think that happens anywhere else.

And since then I've gotten multiple offers and went on several interviews. I'm now working part time with a startup for cash plus equity.

Kurt Cagle
2007-10-15 12:36:21
Silicon Valley has an interesting synergy going on right now, though not necessarily a good one. It's an extraordinarily expensive place to live, which means that in general what has happened is that the ones that can afford to live there are either young single professionals who are willing to go into roommate arrangements or those people who have already made their millions and can afford the high cost of living.

The problem is that everyone else has been priced out of the market. People living on teachers' salaries can only afford to live there if their spouse is a professional, ditto nurses, emergency personnel, and others that can't manage to make the low six figure incomes that you need just to make ends meet there. If you have a family, even as a professional, you can just about forget about finding a place to live under $3500 a month rental, and that's probably being conservative (which implies that you need a combined income of at least $120,000 a year just to cover expenses and taxes), and probably closer to $150,000 a year if you figure the strong consumerist life-style that the region engenders.

As the housing market is beginning to collapse there, people who've bought into liar loans and the like just to get housing are suddenly finding that their ballooning mortgage payments are eating away at what little disposal income they have left, and I suspect that you'll see a net migration away from the Bay Area as people realize that they are losing money working there.

This also means that while Silicon Valley may be good for the previously mentioned singles, there's no community or infrastructure there - its a lousy place to raise kids, the city is basically designed around commuting and the gridlock is becoming worse on a daily basis. Moreover, by all indications, water and energy shortages are sending both of those resources through the roof; I lived in Burlingame about a decade ago and went back to SV for a business trip a couple of weeks ago, and I can tell that San Jose especially, always dry, has become even drier.

However, for all that, I don't necessarily see SV declining significantly. San Francisco is a port city - shipping, air traffic and rail all converge there, and as such SF will survive even if there's a significant decline in tech (as the 2000-2003 recession proved). Seattle and Vancouver thrive for much the same reason, and I don't find it accidental that both are also high tech centers. Detroit declined because it was a one-industry city that had only minor significance as a port. Denver will likely survive for a similar reason - it is the only city of any significance before you head into the Rockies and as such it acts as a transportation hub, though obviously it will likely suffer the vicissitudes of a broad-based recession far more than coastal hubs.

If SV can successfully transition to alternate energies both for regional needs and as a business specialization, they it will continue to prosper. I think that we're in the end game of the software business; the low hanging fruit's been plucked, and while there's a lot of money going into any number of computer startups, the ROI for those startups is nowhere near what it was a decade ago. That doesn't mean that if you get a bunch of bright kids in the same area for long enough that they won't come up with SOMETHING, but whether that something is meaningful is hard to say.

2007-10-16 05:47:49
Silly Valley's undoing will be its hubris (but of course). The insistence that it is the hub for all things computer science while relying more and more on marketing guile over hard innovation will puncture the equilibrium. The hub will shift to Europe and China. Note that in the VW market the graphics engines coming out of Europe are superior by orders of magnitude already. Forums can't beat better code.

2007-10-17 15:16:22
A new hub already exists that is far larger than any physical hub that has ever existed. Companies are moving away from having physical locations for employees to allowing employees to work from wherever they would like. As these companies move towards a more virtual office environment, physical locations will no longer matter.
2007-10-18 06:10:07
That sounds good in theory, Anon, but IME, it doesn't work except for fairly trivial projects with open ended schedules. The idea of One World One Team really assumes a flat curve of skills and perfectly integrated tools. Even with co-located teams, different cultures and human languages are serious impediments to rapid development. You really don't want to try that if you have a project with penalties for late deliveries. The churn in the tools and framework combinations will kill you.

I've done it both ways and I'm a believer in everyone coming to work in the same building at the same time on the same day using the same tools and speaking the same language. I can cut the staff by 30% that way, have fewer schedule problems, and given modern RAD, can compete with India very easily.

Doug K
2007-10-20 18:26:39
All (or almost all) your comments are great. I have been living in Silicon Valley for more than 7 years now, since 2000. Because of the cost of living, and the high tendency of people here to work all the time, living in Silicon Valley has been depressing from day one. And although ethnic and cultural diversification has advantages, I believe Silicon Valley shows how ethnic and cultural diversification can cause Vertical Communities based on different ethnic and cultural backgrounds living in one place. In other words, most people here integrate with other ethnic and cultural groups to a point, but it's difficult to have complete integration. That being said, I've continue to seriously explore other places to live, including the LA area -- it may have problems just as I've described, but it's problems I already have, but I believe I have a better chance of meeting a woman/wife in the LA/Beverly Hills area then I do here in Silicon Valley/SF Bay Area.
2007-10-21 22:20:19
As a resident of Silicon Alley, I'm interested to know what sub-shift(s), if any, have occurred within Silicon Valley and whether said shift(s) are indicative of resolutions to some of the increasing obstacles, e.g. transportation "clogs", housing costs, etc., or of a general fracturing based on alternative opportunities.

The Python users group in NYC, along with the other major Open Source technology users groups in NYC, has been "courted" by Google, and it isn't clear why Google is looking here as opposed to SV.

There are certainly lots of talented developers here, and excellent public transportation, so people tend to have a hybrid remote/local work schedule, i.e. "be there" when necessary and work remotely when appropriate, but apart from the lack of good public transportation, I would think that the same would be true for SV. Like Len, I've worked in both scenarios and there's a lot to be said for being able to argue in-person with a white-board at-the-ready.