On Smart Growth

seattle-from-alkiThe tech world (and tech press) often focus on the Silicon Valley-centric world of huge VC-backed startups. And there is a good reason for that — a lot of those kinds of companies do interesting, innovative things. But as Farhad Manjoo recently wrote in The New York Times, there is another, often less reported, less traditional, and less glamourous way to build a business.

In his story on Mailchimp, Manjoo writes:

“In fact, it’s possible to create a huge tech company without taking venture capital, and without spending far beyond your means. It’s possible, in other words, to start a tech company that runs more like a normal business than a debt-fueled rocket ship careening out of control. Believe it or not, start-ups don’t even have to be headquartered in San Francisco or Silicon Valley.”

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Seattle won’t be the next Silicon Valley (and that’s great!)

IMG_1823There is a saying I’m fond of: “Do not follow in the footsteps of the masters — seek what they sought.” I like it because trying to duplicate other people’s success is the surest way to fail. Thankfully, in terms of building a robust environment for businesses to thrive, Seattle seems to be on a path of creating its own success, and on its own terms.

A clear illustration of where simply trying to copy someone else doesn’t work was the brief mania years ago when cities across the country were all vying to become the next Silicon _____: Silicon Alley, Silicon Bayou, Silicon Shire (sadly lacking in any Hobbits). The problem with many of these wannabes was that they were trying to be just like the Valley.

It was a mercenary money grab attempt that paid no attention to what made the Valley, “the Valley” (which, for the sake of this piece, we’ll use to mean the entire Bay Area). They ignored the confluence of events that helped make the Valley explode: Continue reading