I'm in the midst of a four week trip to downtown Venice in Santa Monica, a little enclave amidst the commercialism and sterility in this little part of the world. While driving down Wilshire the other day something inescapable hit me: Silicon Valley is the capitol of software, just like Hollywood is the capitol of movies and television.
I see your eyes rolling already: "Well, duh!" Yes, well, stick with me for a minute...
As far back as the late 1980's I remember reading stories relating how this movie or that television show was being shot someplace other than Hollywood, and this could be the dawn of an exciting shift away from Hollywood as the global capitol for filmmaking. The idea was that exciting, interesting projects were moving to other venues and production studios, and two different trends were being identified: first, that as the years progress, Hollywood will no longer be the center of the industry. And second, that Vancouver/Chicago/New York/Toronto/wherever may even rival Hollywood as the single most important center in this brave new world. Over 20 years later, did that happen? Nope. Hollywood is as Hollywood was and, even in our shrinking global economy, Hollywood remains the center despite one breathless story after another predicting its decline and fall. David Duchovny's magnetism notwithstanding, The X-Files did not manage to transform Vancouver into the new celluloid Mecca some predicted.
Now, back to software. Lately there have been a dizzying number of stories predicting the decline and fall of the San Francisco Bay Area in general and Silicon Valley in particular as the king of the software hill. New York! Austin! Seattle! One compelling expose after another rolls out the reasons why this-or-that hotbed will replace boring old SV. The first of these sort of stories started hitting after the dot.com.bomb, as Web 2.0 picked up speed. Lately these stories are intensifying, and to read them one would think anyplace but Silicon Valley will be on the top of the software heap in the years ahead.
Gravity is not an easy thing to overcome. Centers of industry have many things going for them: companies, talent, infrastructure, investment community, reputation and just plain inertia. Hell, Detroit remains the international center of the automotive industry and they are in the process of bulldozing a quarter of the entire city because it is so destitute and forlorn.
By contrast, Silicon Valley is among the loveliest natural places in the world to live and also pursue a career, while San Francisco is one of the United States' cultural jewels. Regardless of the hype machines proclaiming this-or-that city will be the "next Silicon Valley" the reality is there is only one Silicon Valley and, like Hollywood and the movie industry, nothing short of a once-in-a-lifetime earthquake is going to change that into the foreseeable future, no matter how much other "upcoming" markets want it to be so.