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.
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)…
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
[…] 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 […]
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.
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[…] 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 […]
[…] 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 […]
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!