The Two Valleys

Happy trails, Dave! See you on the other end of the long, strange, cross-country trip.

Funny. I’m seeing something of a reinvigoration of Silicon Valley (as Joi notes), at the same time as many people I know are leaving it to head east. It’s not, as the California folks sometimes arrogantly say, that the carpet-baggers are going away, leaving the Valley to the real entrepreneurs. The carpet-bagger types are still there, just without jobs. People like Dave Winer, Jason Kottke, and Meg Hourihan are the very essence of the Bay Area tech boom… and they’re the ones going east.

What’s happening, I think, is that the two Silicon Valleys are dividing. The Bay Area was a uniquely fertile place to be during the boom, in a way that masked its many problems (which the boom also exacerbated). People noticing those problems and looking for new challenges are leaving. They are the trailblazer types, who got to the Bay Area ahead of the boom and are looking to catch the early upswing elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Silicon Valley continues to do what it does well. It’s the greatest concentration of tech talent and networking in the world. With the bubble-era volume turned down, it’s easier to get real work done there. Work that doesn’t depend on hype waves and spectacular IPOs. That’s what people like Kim Polese are talking about when they say the buzz is back. I felt it myself at “Supernova” in December.

Life isn’t a zero-sum game. The Valley can lose people and grow stronger, even as the expatriots thrive in their new locales. As for myself, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.