Saturday Post: The West Coast Corridor: 1400 miles of innovation on top of a fault line...

There seems to be a link between innovation and living on the edge of fault lines...

California has by far the largest number of tech workers. According to TechAmerica Foundation’s Cyberstates 2010 report, it has 993,000 tech workers, and its largest center is Silicon Valley.

But it’s not just Silicon Valley that impresses me. If you fly north along the West Coast starting at San Diego, take a look at what you’ll be flying over:

- San Diego, with its large communications, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. This is where Qualcomm is based, the world leader in mobile communications technologies.

- Orange County has a very large number of electronics companies. This is where Broadcom, one of the largest chip companies is based.

- Hollywood with its massive entertainment businesses, all incredibly creative and innovative (3-D movies, animation, etc).

- Santa Monica, where the entertainment industry and technology combine to produce leading online media ventures. This is where Yahoo, AOL, and many others have large centers.

- Silicon Valley and San Francisco, with its huge number of tech, biotech, clean tech companies.

- Portland, Oregon, a rapidly expanding tech community anchored by Intel, which is larger here than its HQ in Silicon Valley.

- Seattle, Washington, with Microsoft and all the other tech companies and aerospace.

- Vancouver, British Columbia, and its large software and graphics technology companies.

From San Diego to Vancouver, you’ll be flying along a narrow corridor 1400 miles long, packed with some of the world’s most innovative and creative communities.

I can’t think of any other region anywhere in the world that is crammed with so many incredibly successful companies, generating so many ground-breaking technologies, decade after decade…

But that’s not all...

This West Coast Corridor of innovation, is sitting on top of one of the most unstable fault lines in the world. It’s the western edge of the North American Plate, part of the Ring of Fire, where 90% of the world’s earthquakes occur, and where 75% of all volcanoes are found.

It’s one of the most disruptive geological zones on the planet.

Is there a connection between living in an area of such abundant innovation and where physical reality is disrupted so often?

I’ve always believed that innovation must contain a strong disruptive element otherwise it’s not really innovation.

But might we be also putting a lot of eggs in one basket? A major disruption of this part of the Pacific Ring fault lines would disrupt a huge part of the rest of the world too. What would happen if this region were struck by a similar earthquake that shattered Haiti? It would be a disaster but not as great as elsewhere, the risk of substantial disruption is reduced:

- Many of the West Coast Corridor companies already have large operations elsewhere, a fortunate side effect of high business costs in California.

- Earthquakes are very regional so only one part of the 1400 mile Corridor could be disrupted at any one time.

- Use of cloud-based IT technology and communications makes it much easier to quickly recover operations after an earthquake.

- There have been huge investments in earthquake proof buildings and highways so recovery from an earthquake will be far quicker than nearly anywhere else in the US.

Still, the connection between disruptive innovation and disruptive reality is possibly coinincidental; but what if it's not?

If you liked this post you can find another just like it next Saturday at 4pm PDT, and also in my new book:

In My Humble Opinion