The Recipe for Another Silicon Valley
Silicon Wadhi, Tel Aviv
CREDIT: Remi Jouan
Despite Silicon Valley's dominance as the world's most important tech business cluster, other clusters are continually popping up and thriving worldwide. In Texas, the area encompassing both Austin and Round Rock houses Dell's headquarters, with the University of Texas at Austin providing a steady stream of graduates into this tech center. There is Zhongguancun in Beijing, "China's Silicon Valley." In Israel, Silicon Wadi in Tel Aviv has been called the second most important tech cluster in the world after its California counterpart.
However, the unparalleled success of Silicon Valley developed out of a unique confluence of circumstances and culture rooted in a specific time and place. Replicating that success may prove impossible, but that hasn't stopped other areas from trying.
"People seem to think that if you start with a university like Stanford, and if you put some great buildings next to it, create a science park, and create venture capital, then magic will happen," said Vivek Wadwha, the director of research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University. "There is no magic recipe. Silicon Valley didn't happen because of infrastructure; it happened because of different people, attitudes, ways of thinking, cultures, because of ris- taking, and so on."
The reasons that some of these centers thrive and others fail are subtle and complex. One constant, though, seems to be that successful hubs maintain open, decentralized and cooperative networks of communication, while those that fail tend towards an independent, vertically integrated approach.
It is for this reason that the industry along the Route 128 corridor in Massachusetts, which had been neck-and-neck with Silicon Valley in computer technology, began to stagnate in the 1970s and '80s. Because of their lack of innovation due to tighter lines of communication between firms, Route 128 ultimately got left in the dust.
Governments often try to jump-start the process by subsidizing the construction of tech clusters. Unfortunately, this strategy rarely works.
"There is no case anywhere in the world of a successful government-created tech center," Wadwha said.
Circumstances have to come together naturally, in a way that harmonizes with a specific time and place. Centers flourish when they develop organically, emerging out of a culture of diversity, innovation and risk-taking.
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