I keep getting sent links to this TechCrunch article, via e-mail and Twitter: 'Why Silicon Valley Left Route 128 in the Dust.'
It's a pretty worthless piece of typistry. Entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa concludes that Silicon Valley is a more dynamic, vibrant, and supportive ecosystem for start-ups because, this past Columbus Day, he was invited to three different tech-related events. Yes, that's the only piece of data in an 1,100 word essay. About this deep primary research, Wadhwa writes:
It was a really hard decision which one to pick. And I found myself wondering, where else in the world would I have to face such a decision? The answer is nowhere. Silicon Valley, which has expanded to embrace the entire Bay Area as an engine of entrepreneurship and innovation, is a unique place of powerful and concurrent overlapping networks.
Wadhwa also trots out some of the arguments from AnnaLee Saxenian's book "Regional Advantage," which accurately portrayed the cultural differences between Route 128 and Silicon Valley in... 1994.
I'm very interested in understanding the differences between these two regions, and in making New England a better place to do innovation.
But I prefer informed arguments to people just writing about what they feel when spending time in a certain area. (Some interesting data comparing the two regions has been presented by Tim Rowe of Cambridge Innovation Center and Paul Maeder of Highland Capital.)
If I were to use data the same way Wadhwa does, I would observe that on Tuesday, November 17th, I was invited to three different events: the MITX Awards, the Boston History & Innovation Collaborative Awards, and a cocktail reception focused on personalized medicine. By Wadhwa's sophisticated reasoning, this must mean that Boston is on par with Silicon Valley in terms of innovation.
...Or maybe you feel there's more substance to the TechCrunch article than I do?
I am not challenging the conclusion that Silicon Valley has more tech companies, big and small, than Boston, or that it serves as a beacon to smart techies and driven entrepreneurs from all over the world. That's obvious, and you probably knew that before reading Wadhwa's TechCrunch ramblings.
I think that we in New England are playing a different set of games than the Valley, and are (hopefully) getting better at each of them. We're playing these games as a region of the world that needs to be competitive in the global economy -- not against Silicon Valley.
The five games we're playing are:
- 1. Attract the smartest people from around the world and proceed to make them smarter at our colleges and universities. (This game, we're winning.)
2. Help connect those students with local companies, mentors, and investors. (We've batted about .150 at this in the past, but are improving.)
3. Enable those students not born in the U.S. to stick around. (This game, we're losing along with every other state, because of the federal government's inflexible visa policies.)
4. Focus on pressing, substantive problems in fields like energy, healthcare, defense, connectivity, commerce, and transportation. (We've been doing this since the 18th century, ever since Boston docs brought vaccines to the US, and pioneered the use of surgical anesthesia.)
5. Grow innovative start-ups into industry-defining big companies. (We need a lot of improvement here.)
About Scott Kirsner
Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.
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December 9: Web Innovators Group
Demos of new mobile apps and web ventures at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge. Free admission; cash bar.
December 10: Fintech Demo Day
Short demos from startups in the financial technology realm.
December 11: Unpitch
Entrepreneurs and investors sit down for lunch, advice, and feedback. Entrepreneurs must apply to participate.