It is time to export Silicon Valley.
Several intersecting trends make this a necessity. The Silicon Valley success formula has been proven over many decades, and the rest of America can readily adopt it. Economic advancement, especially with the coming wave of AI and automation, demands it. Silicon Valley itself has reached a crisis point, where the combined factors of cost of living and corrupting influences make launching companies elsewhere more attractive.
In short, it is time to extract the good aspects of Silicon Valley culture, implant them in all corners of America, in every industry, and bring to the entire nation those benefits we enjoy here, but without the pains we have created.
Silicon Valley history and terminal evolution
Silicon Valley has evolved from a single premise to a point of unsustainability.
We adopted the name Silicon Valley after William Shockley landed in Mountain View and began manufacturing transistors. This brought Fairchild Semiconductor to the region, and they later spun-off companies locally called the Fair Children. From that technical point or origin, two primary Silicon Valley biases exploded: the bias for disruption and the bias for global impact. These drivers led to other Silicon Valley predispositions, including the bias for moving quickly, for brains over egos, and for embracing capitalism.
This worked well for many decades. Hewlett Packard, Oracle, Apple – they all thrived in the heady mix of innovation and disruption, knowing that information and technology were to shape the future of the planet.
But along with those positive disruptions came some negative ones. Silicon Valley residents cannot go a day without discussing venture capital, and local VCs have become a brazen bunch who, collectively, have no interest in creating enduring companies. They have fed Silicon Valley’s lust for growth over humanity, with Uber being its most recent poster child for corporate heartlessness. Maniacal obsession with growth at all costs has made the cost of living in Silicon Valley unaffordable – that a modest, 1960s era three-bedroom rancher was on the market for $2,500,000, and that nobody thought it unreasonable, is just one example.
Silicon Valley is reaching its peak. Its growth is unsustainable, and its negative biases are poisonous. It is time to select the good Silicon Valley genes, and transplant them in every town, city, and industry in America, with the explicit goal of making everyone as successful as we have been.
The question becomes, “What parts of Silicon Valley culture do we export, which ones do we lock away, and how do we get this done?”
Our biases: the good, the bad, and how to separate them
Silicon Valley has many biases, mostly positive. Our culture grew out of our visions, and these have proven to be useful and noble. What we will export to the rest of American industry includes:
Bias for disruption: Disruption means changing things such that the old ways are no longer viable. These big changes are designed to fundamentally rethink how things are done.
Bias for flying fast: Even Silicon Valley’s most enduring enterprises move with agility and speed. The fact is, the rest of the world can mechanically do what Silicon Valley does – we have exported the technology that enables it. But Silicon Valley has the bias for instant action, and all of America can have it too.
Bias for brains, not egos: The best idea wins. Ignoring some CEOs whose maniacal mantras have done them and their companies a disservice, most of Silicon Valley is an egalitarian society that champions the best solution, regardless of who devises it.
Bias for global: “World economy” is now a redundant phrase. Silicon Valley’s transistor origins made us think globally from the start. There is no reason a muffler maker out in the middle should not think in the same terms.
Bias for bucks: Capitalism is good. With it Silicon Valley has united people, changed history, and grown both private and public wealth.
These are the good Silicon Valley biases, the ones to be exported. The negative biases with which we’ll not burden the rest of America include:
Myopic venture capitalists: Not all Silicon Valley VCs are vultures. Most are. They want fast top-line revenues and a quick exit. America has a long history of building enduring companies, so we will not export the Silicon Valley VC short-term perspective.
Top-line obsession: The drive to fund, grow, and fund some more leads many Silicon Valley startups to look only at revenues, not profits or the people who made them. America will find long-term stability and wealth by focusing on people and the bottom line.
Taking shortcuts: Uber has a list of alleged sins ranging from immoral inter-office sexual behaviors to using technology to spy on people. The blind pursuit of top-line growth tempts many to take shortcuts. Only the long view survives, so we’ll cage our shortcut mentality and keep it here.
How to export a culture
Cultures tend to be regional for a reason. Modes of thinking are strongly tied to the local inhabitants, and are even rejected outright if they are too unfamiliar.
Yet America knows Silicon Valley. They see what we accomplish, buy the products we make, and use our services to connect with people and companies around the world. Exporting Silicon Valley culture will be simpler than it might be with other cultures. There needs to be a multi-pronged approach.
America’s educational priorities are not focused on creating long-term success, much less supporting a national Silicon Valley mentality. But this is changing.
Foremost, American taxpayer investment must prioritize science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). These are the foundational building blocks of twenty-first century commerce, and the bedrock of Silicon Valley. STEM is applicable to nearly everything, including that muffler maker out in the middle. It is not too bold of a proposal to suggest that public grants, loans and scholarships be restricted to STEM for the foreseeable future.
Entrepreneurship in education
Many colleges now have entrepreneurship programs, which is laudable. These are places which my fellow Silicon Valley CEOs should attend. These institutions are where the seed of Silicon Valley’s good biases can be planted, to inculcate the next Steve Jobs, whether in Nebraska or New Mexico.
To that end, I have launched the ZinnStarter program. Started at Virginia Tech, the goal is to provide seed-level funding to students in entrepreneurship programs. By enabling them to travel beyond the idea stage, ZinnStarter seeks to make learning Silicon Valley sensibilities part of getting a financial leg up.
Most importantly, government at every level unencumbers businesses, and thus stifles innovation. For his book How the Hell Did This Happen?, P. J. O’Rourke spoke with many small business men and women who complained that regulations strangled them. He quotes one fellow who said, “I can afford the Obamacare. But what I can’t afford is the paperwork that comes with it. That’s not what I do.”
High tech is one of the least regulated industries around, which is one of the reasons we are so successful. Given that regulations have cost us an estimated $4T in economic vitality since 1980, ridding America of inane or crony-enriching regulations is essential. All American industry deserves the same lack of paperwork and obstruction. All Americans deserve to be free enough to succeed.
The vision is to be a better, national Silicon Valley
You can’t argue with success. We have that in Silicon Valley, in spades. Now it is your turn. America, as a single great society, can have what Silicon Valley has while avoiding our sullied side. All it takes is focus and the knowledge it is doable.