40 Responses

  1. Silicon Valley is a great place if you want to start or work in a business that tries to make money like an oil company: a large group of failures that is occasionally offset by a big gusher. But, if you want to build a sustainable business that grows slowly, it’s hindered tremendously by the high cost of employees, housing, etc.

    You can easily make the case that Silicon Valley is a failure. For instance, the unemployment rate of Silicon Valley is 4 points higher than Austin. As you note in your post, San Francisco is a much more interesting place to live; people in Silicon Valley often go to Santa Cruz or San Francisco for the weekend because they are more interesting.

    For more reasons why people in Silicon Valley could be less enthusiastic about their home, see my blog post, Why Does Start-Up Chile Want to Mimic Silicon Valley?

  2. Steve,

    Great post, and a great tour! One other place I’d put in would be to tour the Embarcadero starting over at Pier 38. There’s a thriving hub of the SF Startup scene over there. It’s like looking at a replay of The New New Thing (and you get beautiful Bay Bridge Views)…


  3. No Berkeley? :-(

  4. This is epic, thank you.

    One more: pretend you’re starting a tech company.

    Last April a friend and I bought plane tickets to SFO, with no plan and no existing contacts, to pitch my startup and flesh it out over a few weeks. We worked out of University Cafe, Del Doge, and Stanford. We were amazed at our ability to meet with people, pump them for feedback, and learn. We met VCs, entrepreneurs, coders, designers. Ultimately that concept wasn’t right, but the experience of feeding off the critical, creative energy was formative. I moved back as soon as I could, and now live here.

    Pretend you’re starting a company and been assertive about in meeting new people. Or better yet, actually start one. I can’t think of a better way to learn what Silicon Valley is all about.

    Thanks for this post.


  5. Steve — this is a great tour. I think you have it exactly right.

    One thought: you say the area is “on par with classic Athens, renaissance Florence or 1920’s Paris.” Here’s a story I wrote for Salon a few years back digging into the oft used ‘renaissance’ comparison. It’s high asymmetric. And a decade later, very little has changed.


    Interestingly, when Vanity Fair profiled its 2010 ‘Media Establishment’ list last October — where the top five names all lived in or near Palo Alto — it called the city “the Rome of our nascent millennium.”


    It’s an interesting thought experiment to imagine ourselves as having more in common with imperial Rome, perhaps, than republican Florence.


  6. I would add,
    Stop for lunch at the Bistro at Silicon Valley Ferrari on El Camino Real in Redwood City. Eaves drop on the conversations there.
    Stop and pick out your desired options on your Tesla at the Tesla dealer in Menlo Park.
    Visit what was formerly Ferrari Los Gatos and pick out which ride you need when you go public.

  7. Great tour, Steve! As someone who runs a startup out of Denver, this post is gold for the next time I venture out to the Valley. Thank you for sharing!

  8. That was the kind of an article I was hoping to find and finally did. I’m going to fly to Palo Alto from Moscow to the Deep Dive event this March and I know that you’ll be there teaching us some courses. Steve thanks for your blog, for your book, and for the opportunity to see you in the Valley and talk to you.

  9. Thanks for the shout out to http://www.hackersandfounders.com. I’ve been organizing the meetup in bars and restaurants in the area for the last 3 years, and it’s been a blast.

    One of the things that really frustrates me, though, is how many people move into the area and flounder, not knowing what “Silicon Valley” is, where to go, or what do to. This article is a great start.

    What I think Silicon Valley needs is a Welcome Wagon for new entrepreneurs. I’d love a chance to talk to you about it, Steve.

  10. Just add a Sunday run down to the Pier at Capitola and the newcomer will be all set.

  11. You are also welcome to drop by a Bootstrappers Breakfast, there are 7 a month in Silicon Valley: Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Milpitas, Walnut Creek and San Francisco (2).

  12. great post steve. fun to be part of what is now history.

  13. Excellent piece Steve with some enormously practical and well informed advice. I’ll use it in my next lecture to post grads on public policy and industry clusters at St Andrews.

  14. […] A Visitors Guide to Silicon Valley If you’re a visiting dignitary whose country has a Gross National Product equal to or greater than the State of […] […]

  15. Fun post, Steve. It reminds me of those posters from the 90’s that showed a map of SV with logos of all the big tech co’s on it. 3 quick additions:

    +Get on the “free lunch circuit” by making friends with people who work at Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, and many, many other companies who have (often excellent) in-house chefs

    +Take a left out of South Park and stroll the 2nd Street corridor in SF’s SOMA, which is getting white hot with startup activity (there are 954 startups in SOMA, compared to 263 in Palo Alto and 236 in Mountain View according to Crunchbase)

    +When you’re ready to sell your startup, come to the next http://www.StartupExits.com event to meet M&A teams from the companies most likely to buy you; the last had Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo; the next one on 4/28 will have LinkedIn, Intuit, Microsoft and Salesforce.

    Nathan Beckord

  16. Hacker Dojo member here – thanks for the love!

    The Dojo is open almost 24/7, always with at least a handful of members around who would gladly give anybody a tour. Feel free to stop by at any time, bring your laptop (or gizmo), and start working on your project alongside others :) We have coffee.

  17. Superb guide. Thank you Steve.

  18. Hi Steve – I really enjoyed this post, it was really unique and really conveyed the uniqueness of Silicon Valley. I have never been, but after reading your article I really want to make a trip out there!

  19. Great piece. My addition: go to San Tomas Expressway or Matilda Ave. or Milpitas or Fremont and look for business parks with long lists of electronics companies or better yet, companies with their names above the door, all companies you’ve never heard of. Realize that the sexy IPO-VC side of Silicon Valley is only the top layer, and that below it are small electronics firms that don’t make much money and aren’t going to get rich on an IPO or M&A.

  20. Attend a SuperHappyDevHouse and surround yourself for a day with 600 coders all building projects and socializing.

  21. Great article – it will help me during my first weeks in the valley!

    Thanks also for the inspiring talk at the blackbox breakfast this morning.

    Daniel from Germany

  22. […] is on to something… and that’s a BIG endorsement.  In his recent post entitled a Visitor’s Guide to Silicon Valley Blank describes the Valley as being “about the interactions, not the buildings.”  He […]

  23. Good list. I’d add visit Fry’s, the local electronics store and inspiration for many consumer ideas. Also Halted, a used electronic parts emporium in Santa Clara that is the supply room for many startups. And also see Techshop in Menlo Park where DIY culture spans from hobby all the way to business.

  24. Thanks Steve, I am heading to Oakland, San Fran and Palo Alto, for the next 2 weeks. I am looking for tech people and Angels this will help a lot :-)

  25. What are good resources to plan a tech week visit to Mountain View?…

    I found this great “tour suggestion” by Steve Blank: …http://steveblank.com/2011/02/22/a-visitors-guide-to-silicon-valley/…

  26. I have plans to visit silicon valley later this year…this is really cool…very helpful…thanks a million…

  27. […] of the world. A little while ago, Bob Ell sent me another one of Steve Blank’s article about taking a tour of Silicon Valley, so that I could gain inspiration for my next big idea. Not a bad idea for a road trip, but I do […]

  28. […] A visitors guide to Silicon Valley – by Steve Blank […]

  29. […] or take a Silicon Valley tour, Steve Blank […]

  30. I just came here for a few weeks in September for holiday and for Burning Man, but following your guide I ended up working for a cool startup in SF and decided to move here. Great post, thanks! :)

  31. […] Blank offers a very good overview of the requisite stops during your Silicon Valley tour here:http://steveblank.com/2011/02/22…Note that Steve has worked in Chile before, so use a little networking to get on his […]

  32. […] us for dinner too), and we found some incredible resources on the web as well: The Wikipedia articleA Visitor’s Guide to Silicon Valley by Steve Blank (which published on 22nd Feb 2011 was perfectly timed)However, we want to make sure that we […]

  33. […] I did the things any young aspiring entrepreneur would do heading to SV for the first time, I read Steve Blank’s blog, read answers to questions about the Valley on Quora and sat down with friends and mentors who have […]

  34. […] in the industry happens so frequently, that Silicon Valley godfather Steve Black has put together a Hacker’s Guide to Silicon Valley. Some of the places listed on his map include: Red Rock Coffee and Caffe Centro. Yes, both have […]

  35. […] Blueseed CIOBlueseed CIOCheck out Steve Blank's excellent essay on visiting the Bay Area, h… (more) Sign up for free to read the full text. Login if you already have an account.Comment […]

  36. […] preparing for this trip I got inspired by among other’s Steve Blank’s “A Visitors Guide to Silicon Valley“, with great suggestions what (not) to do while visiting Silicon Valley. Despite his advice […]

  37. […] um blogpost do Steve Blank em que ele fala sobre os lugares a serem visitados no Vale do Silício, ele descreve Stanford como “The Brains of Silicon Valley” (O Cérebro do Vale do Silício). E […]

  38. […] um blogpost do Steve Blank em que ele fala sobre os lugares a serem visitados no Vale do Silício, ele descreve Stanford como “The Brains of Silicon Valley” (O Cérebro do Vale do Silício). E […]

  39. “The Valley is about the Interactions Not the Buildings” Well… here’s more building :-) http://tocatlian.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/a-visitors-guide-to-silicon-valley-geekman-style/

  40. Just got back from Palo Alto. A friend recommended I check out this guide– of course, it was right on the money! We hit every hot spot you recommended and soaked it all in; it was a tech geek’s dream come true. I came back to the east coast with a reignited passion and drive. There’s just something in the air out there. Thanks again!

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