Stop Idealizing Silicon Valley

Yan Lhert
Yan Lhert
May 12, 2017 · 3 min read

Look, Silicon Valley is great. I spent 7 years working at and building startups in the Bay Area. I love the valley and the startup ecosystem there, but these days there is WAY too much hype about some magic in the drinking water there. It seems that every day there is a new blog post touting Siberia or Lisbon or Barcelona as being “the next Silicon Valley”. You can pretty much Google“<city name> next silicon valley” and find plenty of blog posts to hype up <city name> as the obvious heir apparent. The reality is that Silicon Valley is the current and future “Silicon Valley” and basically nothing will change that no matter what anyone claims.

When I meet startup founders who haven’t been spent substantial time in Silicon Valley, very often they’ll talk longingly about it. Most people outside the valley picture a place where every startup thrives and anything is possible. The way people describe Silicon Valley is often comically glorified. Sure there is a much larger volume of startups and VC funding in SV, but I don’t think that any individual startup’s chances at outlier level success are that much higher in SV. Anecdotally, I think the reason SV has produced so many giant multi-billion IPO’s is simply because there are just that many more startups being formed there, not because the chance of success is that much higher.

While Silicon Valley does have a special something, and is undoubtably the venture capital of the world, building a startup is just as hard in Buenos Ares as it is in the Bay Area.

The Bay Area does have a great collection of likeminded people, who love startups and technology. It is really awesome to be around so many people who love the startup scene and are doing cool things. However, this will not affect the day to day of your startup that much. In fact, the advice that Y Combinator beats into young founders is that you need to stop doing things that seem like work but are not work. One of those things is networking. While networking seems important, and feels good, I’ve never seen a great product get built by someone who just has lots of friends in the right places. On the other hand, there are plenty of examples of loners who were holed up in a basement somewhere, quietly building an incredible product, which ends up being a multi billion dollar IPO. If you want to have lots of friends in startups, and talk about technology all day, there is nothing wrong with that — but don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s necessary to have a bunch of friends in the industry to build a great product.

To the startup founders NOT in SV, wherever you may be in the world: please don’t sell yourselves short. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your startup is less successful because it’s not based in SV. The day to day work of building startups is exactly the same in SV and pretty much everywhere else. Focus on building a great product and team, and don’t worry about what’s happening in your neighbors yard. We all know how much better the grass can look from that angle…

A Closer Look at the Geography of Venture Capital in the U.S.:

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