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The Geography of Entrepreneurship

The Times today reports on the latest version of an old theme: 

Silicon Valley, the wellspring of the digital technologies fueling globalization, is itself a collection of remarkably local clusters based on industry niches, skills, school ties, traffic patterns, ethnic groups and even weekend sports teams.

“Here, we have microclimates for wines and microclimates for companies,” said John F. Shoch, a longtime venture capitalist.

A similar story could have been written 15 years ago, or 30 years ago; the companies and clusters have changed but the principle remains the same.  Social practices, and the dynamics of production in particular — whether they involve innovation, entrepreneurship, early-stage investing, or musical performance — follow and create place and space.  Lefebvre, anyone?

There have always been certain restaurants in the Silicon Valley where people go to see, be seen, spin ideas, and do deals.  There was a Good Earth in Cupertino, and another one in Palo Alto.  The Sundeck was and remains the only food option near the center of the VC universe at 3000 Sand Hill Road.  The intersection of 101 and 237 was the hub of a trio of industrial giants:  Lockheed, Westinghouse, and Ford.  Networking was in Palo Alto (SRI, Xerox PARC, and labs attached to Stanford).  Venture capitalists, lawyers, and grad students have been finding each other and setting deals in motion on the soccer fields in Mitchell Park since the mid-1980s.  The neighborhood in west Menlo Park now labeled “University Park” was for much of the 1960s and early 1970s domesticated the mid-Peninsula’s counterculture (in the early part of the century it housed Thorsten Veblen).  Kepler’s, back in the beginning, was a Peninsula cousin of City Lights and Black Oak and Cody’s, where the domesticated counterculture could get find both energy and serenity in numbers. 

At the other end of the productivity spectrum, Alviso — which the Times and its sources characterize innocently as a hub for networking companies — was for many years famous only as the home of the “Alviso Slough,” where the Guadalupe River emptied into the Bay.  

From effluent to affluent, as it were. 

1 thought on “The Geography of Entrepreneurship”

  1. The seen and be seen restaurants create many memorable moments as well.

    I fondly remember many cases from practice where the key meeting of a dispute was recalled as: “I don’t remember the date, but __, __, and I were all meeting at [pick a restaurant], and I very clearly remember __ telling the group….”

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