Ok, I know, I know, tech startups that aren’t in Silicon Valley get all miffed when you bring this up and love to point out all the successful tech startups outside the Valley. However, those five companies notwithstanding, there’s a very simple reason to be here: everyone else is.
I’ve read these words before, but they finally clicked for me tonight when I went to Startup2Startup. My table had a couple of successful entrepreneurs, one of the early hires from Google, an angel investor or two, and a couple of VC guys. We all sat and talked about starting tech companies for an hour. That kind of face-time is actually not uncommon here. I’ve found that it’s actually not terribly difficult to get meetings with people who have done some pretty impressive things. Incredibly busy founders take time to respond to emails. You can’t swing a dead cat in any direction without hitting a couple of entrepreneurs who are working on their second or third startup. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone knows what’s going on or who you should talk to. It’s overwhelming in many ways just trying to figure out where to focus your energy. I could literally attend tech meetups, mixers, and other events every single night of the week, and probably several lunches throughout the week as well.
As usual, Paul Graham said it best. The impact of a culture focused on entrepreneurship is hard to quantify, but it pays off tremendously. Most entrepreneurs are stubborn and enjoy swimming against the current, but when you’re the only one like you, it gets very hard to figure out which way you’re supposed to keep swimming (to stretch the metaphor a bit). There’s tremendous value in having like-minded people to encourage you, to learn from, and to remind you that it can be done. You know this because they’ve done it. And when you sit for an hour and talk to them, you find out that they’re not so different from you, just perhaps a few years ahead.
The danger is that because you’re surrounded by so many people just like you, you tend to get locked in to thinking a certain way. That’s a real danger, and you should try and break through the bubble as often as you can. Go visit one of the states in middle America and talk to those people. They’ll help you stay grounded and help you understand what real people out there are thinking about right now and how you can reach them. But once you gather that intel, come back. Because if you want to build the future, there’s no better place than Silicon Valley.