Silicon Valley is Hollywood for Startups


I watched Social Network for the second time today, and it got me thinking. Entrepreneurs are no different than struggling actors. The end goal for an actor or entrepreneur is not to land a high paying job at some respected company, but to become rich and famous. If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to create something new and exciting that hundreds of thousands (maybe even millions) of people will use. If you are an actor, your goal is to get on TV or the big screen and be seen by millions of people.

We’re all working towards the same goal and yet everyone has a different approach. However, We all can agree on one point: You have a higher probability of succeeding if you surround yourself with the smartest people in your industry. The more connections you have, the better chance you have of getting found. Silicon Valley and Hollywood have a large concentration of industry talent all in one small area, and this is why they are arguably the most importent and influential areas in the world. Yes, the world.

What other place can you get a more dramatic scene when you finally tell your parents: “Mom, Dad: I’ve decided to quit school & work, and move to hollywood to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming an actor”. Change Hollywood with “Chicago, New York, London, Tokyo, Paris” and it just doesn’t have the same effect. No matter how much you love your city, it’s just not as influential as Silicon Valley or Hollywood. Don’t get me wrong, other cities ARE important too and you can become rich and famous by starting a company outside of silicon valley such as Boston, Chicago or New York, and there have been plenty instances of actors outside of Hollywood that have gone on to become rich and famous. But that’s not my point. There are no other areas in the world that are more influential and important than Silicon Valley or Hollywood. Period.

Silicon Valley is home to the most brilliant entrepreneurs and technology companies who have impacted people’s lives around the world. Google, Facebook & Apple are a rock throw from each other. Where else in the world can you say three companies of that magnitude are located so close to each other? Better yet, imagine if they all disappeared right now. Wouldn’t things be a whole lot worse?

Hollywood is home to some of the most influential actors, agents, producers and studios along with movies & music that are watched and heard around the world. They control America’s media, and arguably have a huge impact on international media as well. Media is important and goes hand in hand with technology. If president Obama shut off our internet AND TV, you can guarantee there will be mass riots.

Speaking of riots, technology & media were part of the reason people in Egypt were able to organize protests efficiently and succeed in their mission to overthrow Mubarak. It wasn’t the people of Silicon Valley or Hollywood that were part of this, but you can’t look past their role as an enabler, and you can’t look past the importance of these two areas and their impact across the world.

I would love to be proven wrong on this issue. If you think there is a more important region, I would love to hear about it in the comments below.

Side note: I am a fairly well travelled individual who has been to most of the major international cities except East Asia. I also live in Chicago. Go Figure.

You can follow the author, Robbie Abed on twitter @robbieab and The Startup Foundry on twitter @startupfoundry.

  • Johnarleyburns

    Get outside of California some time and see the world. Grow up.

    • Anonymous

      Robbie actually lives in Chicago. He was just pointing out the similarities between how actors see Hollywood, and entrepreneurs see Silicon Valley. He isn’t saying it’s the only place you can make it, but it certainly helps being there. As he mentioned towards the bottom of his post, Robbie is actually quite travelled.

    • As Startupfoundry says and the bottom of my posts says – I have seen a lot of the world.

  • Ssfsdfsasasda

    Ever think of the finance guys in New York or the lobbyists in DC? This comes from a Silicon Alleyer.

    • Yes & Yes. I have lived in new york and I have been to DC a handful of times. I don’t see many people move there without a job lined up or hopes to be a NY finance guy. It has a different aura too it. And like my post says, of course there are plenty of other important places – but Silicon Valley & Hollywood are top of the mind.

  • Silicon Valley is the mecca for one segment of the economy. Yes, it happens to be a growing part of the economy and definitely one that gets a lot of press coverage. It’s only the place to be if you want to make a tech business, and it’s getting increasingly easy to be successful in tech away from the valley.

    If I wanted to become an ad man, I would still go to Madison Ave. If I wanted to become a tailor I would head to Savile Row. If I wanted to be a porn star I would move to San Fernando Valley. If I wanted to start a factory I would set up shop in Shenzhen. If I wanted to manufacture automobiles I would still relocate to Detroit.

    It’s quite common for a group of people interested in the same industry to end up in the same place. Yes, that’s true for pop media in Hollywood and the tech sector in Silicon Valley. But there might be better places for entrepreneurs to find communities more specifically tailored to what they’re interested in doing.

    If I remember correctly, there is a section in Steven Johnson’s book Emergence on this very subject.

    • Good comment, and I agree. I’ll have to check out the book as well.

      To your comment: “If I wanted to become an ad man, I would still go to Madison Ave. If I wanted to become a tailor I would head to Savile Row. If I wanted to be a porn star I would move to San Fernando Valley. If I wanted to start a factory I would set up shop in Shenzhen. If I wanted to manufacture automobiles I would still relocate to Detroit.”

      Spot on. But, to the point in my article – Those industries are still not as influential as tech & entertainment. Finance in NY is a very close 3rd, and yes porn takes up all of our bandwidth – It didn’t have any part in any of the mideast riots.

      • Some of those industries are absolutely as influential as tech and entertainment. The difference is that tech and entertainment have been forcing phenomenal change on our lives and those other industries haven’t. The garment, automobile and global import/export industries have become relatively pedestrian. They are no longer changing the way we live, but they are essential to how we live because they’ve already made the types of changes to society that mass media and technology are making today.

        I simply think you’re overstating the importance of tech and entertainment as industries. Yes, they are absolutely remaking society in dramatic ways right now. However, taking the long view of history, they aren’t the first industries to do this nor will they be the last. As society works through the changes tech and entertainment are making to our lives, we will find a new equilibrium where we hardly notice these two industries in the future. Eventually, something new will come along that will disrupt that post-tech, post-entertainment equilibrium.

  • @niketdesai

    Being an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley is like being an actor in Hollywood; it mostly means you’re unemployed.

  • I live in Chicago, too… and I totally agree with this post. I founded my startup in San Francisco, but I choose to live in Chicago. Best of both – SF is great place to raise a tech startup, and Chicago is a great place to raise a family. So I split my time between both.
    If you’re in technology, you *can* live anywhere, but you can’t ignore Silicon Valley.

    • Amen. I would love to get your insight on the chicago startup scene and where you go to meet other entrepreneurs. I go to ITA events, midwest venture events and other events when I can, and still feel a little empty when I’m done.

      The other big issue I have is that, the other entrepreneurs I meet aren’t developers. I also don’t get this feeling in Chicago that they are willing to just quit with what they’re doing and go full on with their idea.

      • Many good technologists in Chicago are not in startups, they’re in consulting (ThoughtWorks, Obtiva, Hashrocket, JupiterJS, Wisdom Group, etc.), or work in trading (DRW). And then there’s Google and Groupon, too, who’s sucked up quite a bit of local talent in recent years. However, I feel like I know more people in Chicago startups now than I did a few years ago, but I can’t tell if that’s just because I’m getting better at remembering names and faces, or there really are more startups in Chicago now.

        To meet developer/entrepreneurs, you need to go to developer events. 🙂
        I semi-frequent the JavaScript Chicago (JS.Chi) and Python (ChiPy) meetups. If I had more time, I’d probably attend the Arduino meet-up or solder circuits at PumpingStation:One. If Chicago had a TechShop, I’d be all over that, too.

        The closet I’ve been to networking with other founders in Chicago is ORDCamp (which is/was awesome). But I don’t attend other more regular monthly events. Maybe I’d attend Chicago Lean Startup Circle, but my lean startup keeps me too busy to attend. 🙂

        • Your answer was painfully obvious, and right after I posted my initial question to you, I signed up for a hacking meetup (chicago.concat) this wednesday & will start attending the other meetings.

          Thanks for the input.

  • You are correct. I’ve been saying this exact phrase for the past year after moving here (San Francisco). In LA, screenwriters slip their screenplays under bathroom stall doors, and here entrepreneurs try to get their pitch to investors. It’s a very similar thing. While it’s possible to run a startup in another city (I’ve done it and successfully exited while still in that city … DC), there’s no other place in the world I’ve been where the person next to me at a coffee shop, with high frequency, is an entrepreneur plotting their path to success or an investor giving advice. Pretty awesome place.

    • “there’s no other place in the world I’ve been where the person next to me at a coffee shop, with high frequency, is an entrepreneur plotting their path to success or an investor giving advice.”

      Spot on. If i’m in a coffee shop in chicago, i’m most likely the only entrepreneur in the place. In a place like SF, they can be anywhere. It’s an exciting place to be.

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