Puh-leeze, Stop Calling Arizona the “Silicon Desert”

Jonathan Cottrell
Published in
3 min readNov 20, 2016


Group high five,

and ! I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment (even though it’s spelled #yesphx, not #YesPHX, but I digress). I agree so much, in fact, that I even wrote about it on the site’s 2.0 update.

To those asking about using the #yesphx concept for their own cities, I wrote:

Yes. Do it. Be the change in your city. Just be sure to find inspiration in our efforts, yet clearly make it represent your own community, unique unto itself. A brief story to further the point:

Years ago, a few vocal folks tried to brand Arizona as the Silicon Desert. Fortunately for us, it didn’t stick. Silicon Valley got its name because of the high concentration of companies in northern California making semiconductors, which are often made of silicon. For the Bay Area, this title made sense. For Greater Phoenix, not so much…

Now, I say “it didn’t stick,” and largely, it’s true. But there are still a few people who continue with its usage, especially if they’re newer or less connected to our startup ecosystem. I continue:

Everyone is so ready to copycat other successful people and places, wrongly believing that if you speak it enough, it’ll come true. In Phoenix, it took time to identify what it was that made us unique. Generosity wasn’t a word we just picked because it sounded nice, but because it was true of who we already were (our identity), while also being a value we aspire to (our vision). In fact, this came almost a year after we started the grand experiment that is #yesphx, thanks largely to Tom Curzon attaching a word to it.

Brad Feld says that startup communities need a 20-year time horizon, so with that timeline in mind, Phoenix still has a long way to go. But we’re on our path, and we wish you and every other city well along yours. Give it the uniqueness, time, and effort it deserves.

Of course, I get it. I understand that this “Silicon _____” branding seems to be the thing to do, and nearly everyone in every community has done it at some point or another — Silicon Alley, Silicon Beach, Silicon Prairie, Silicon Etc.

Here’s what leading investor and entrepreneur Marc Andreesen has to say about this line of thinking and speaking:

…policymakers shouldn’t be trying to copy Silicon Valley. Instead, they should be figuring out what domain is (or could be) specific to their region — and then removing the regulatory hurdles for that particular domain. Because we don’t want 50 Silicon Valleys; we want 50 different variations of Silicon Valley, all unique from each other and all focusing on different domains.

Uniqueness, people. That’s all I’m encouraging — and in good company, it appears. Our focus on biotech and life sciences, B2B SaaS, cyber security, edtech, autonomous technology, and the other sectors in which we stand out is where we have the most opportunity. Instead of copying others, let’s keep building the Phoenix, Arizona startup ecoystem as the world’s most generous community for entrepreneurs.

We’re Phoenix. Let’s be proud of that.

If you agree, please recommend this article and share it everywhere you can — using the #yesphx hashtag, of course.