We had a great summer vacation, including spending a week in Los Gatos, where we visited with friends and sent our son to a computer camp at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. (The class was full).
The commute from where we were staying to the Tech Museum was a bear and a reminder of my 1 hour commute from San Rafael to San Francisco in the ’90s. But it was a good learning experience for our son. We also visited the Intel Museum in Santa Clara and Computer History Museum in Mountain View.
Silicon Valley is an old “stomping ground”: I spent some of my high school years in Silicon Valley (AKA Santa Clara County, circa ’70s) and later was a longtime technology reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, chronicling the Google, Netscape and Yahoo public offerings, return of Steve Jobs to Apple, “Wintel” portmanteau, rise of Cisco, and more.
Later, at CNET, I helped arrange for our staff to meet with Jobs as he outlined a vision for the computer maker to become a consumer electronics giant — now “common knowledge.” Thinking back on it, he hit a “home run.”
During our trip to Los Gatos this summer (now home of high-tech highflier Netflix) , we heard firsthand that funding for startups in Silicon Valley (AKA “unicorns”) is on fire — confirming what you read about for the likes of Uber and Airbnb. We also heard how the cities such as Los Gatos were benefiting from the spike in tax revenue.
But it’s not all golden. The expenses for startups are huge: largely for rent in Silicon Valley and the salaries for engineering/computer science school graduates. It has given rise to concerns about “overvalued” startups and justifiably so.
“Is this the way to Amarillo”?
Meanwhile, about 1,300 miles away, in Amarillo, Texas, I’ve been following the adventures of former Grass Valley resident Jerri Glover and her husband, Bill, who returned to their hometown and are launching an Internet startup.
I appreciated Bill’s intellect at AJA Video Systems and Jerri’s verve for community participation, including a run for City Council. I was sorry to see them go.
“This is where Bill and I live and work now,” Jerri writes on her Facebook page, pointing to a page for Amarillo economic development. “You can see a few of the reasons we chose to move here. Figure in with these family and you get an even more complete picture.
“We have been fortunate to land at the West Texas A&M University Enterprise Center and that is providing us with even more unique support and opportunities.”
Who can blame them? The costs are so much lower than in California for a startup and just plain living.
Having said that, the costs in Grass Valley and Nevada City are far lower than for the “unicorn” startups in Silicon Valley.
We should be able to market ourselves as the “happy medium” between Silicon Valley and Texas. We have amazing attributes, including outdoor recreation, and arts and culture. All of this will help attract “millennials” if we market our community to them (not just retirees).
This is a mantra of our quarterly magazine, and we’re getting real traction.
I’m hopeful that we can “brand” our community as a “soft landing” from Silicon Valley without having to go all the way to Texas (where it’s a little flatter).
This is not new. When you think about the history of our core video-tech industry, Charlie Litton and Donald Hare were drawn to our community for its rural attributes from coastal California.
History can repeat itself — if we just put our minds to it.