Silicon Valley is a place in Northern California. It’s also accurate to say that Silicon Valley is also a mindset that knows no geographic boundaries. If you will indulge me I’ve coined a term for this syncretic network state. I’m calling it the Silicon Diaspora.
While my family is from Boulder Colorado and I was raised there, because of my father’s startup ambition I ended up being born in Fremont California. It was a low rent neighborhood in Silicon Valley back then. Now it’s got a Tesla factory.
But we didn’t stay. My family and many others. Silicon Valley was such an inspiring landscape we sent missionaries to other cities and our diaspora took hold.
There are many types of nodes of varying sizes cities that include the Silicon Diaspora. And these nodes have a few key ingredients in common which attract the diaspora to them.
It’s worth getting to know some of elements that have allowed previous diasporas to thrive as it tells you how tight knit Silicon Valley social capital systems remain even in decentralized form.
I will start with Boulder. In the 90s, a movement was afoot to turn my hometown into a startup hubs as it was already benefitting from its proximity to several defense & aerospace industry players like Lockheed but also crucially was home to federal science labs like NIST, NCAR and NOAA.
The technical talent was then nurtured by investors at home. Boulder owes a great debt to Brad Feld and everyone at Foundry Group for this community. Boulder was and remains a crucial node in the diaspora.
MIAMI & AUSTIN
We’ve seen Austin and Miami rise during the pandemic years as founders and venture capitalists scrambled from Silicon Valley. Keith Rabois and Mayor Suarez willed Miami’s tech scene into existence almost overnight.
Austin’s history as a startup hub has its roots in semiconductor and hardware like Dell and Texas Instruments. Watch Halt and Catch Fire’s excellent depiction of Texas as a nexus for the Comdex years.
NEW YORK CITY
And lets not forget New York City as the hub in the late aughts and teens. This is where I spent most of my entrepreneurial career. We associate New York with more financial technology but it was a consumer company Foursquare that put New York on the map for venture. They also has a hometown hero fund Union Square Ventures’s theory of network effects. We had political support too. A very helpful mayor in Michael Bloomberg facilitated the growth of the New York node.
I’m even seeing it now in Montana. Bozeman has a thriving startup scene buttressed by its popularity with some unique demographics like ex-military founders and retired venture capitalists. My husband goes to the weekly Bozeman Startup Slack meetup every Thursday.
Silicon Diaspora has many of its citizens in the mountain west (both Wyoming and Idaho have scenes) as those values align well with crypto, privacy and defense startups. I hope to be a part of nurturing Montana as a future node of the Silicon Diaspora.