Silicon Valley gets on the same bus every day — ideas need diversity

Prediction: Large urban centers such as New York will generate more original startups than Silicon Valley
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

People like to compare the tech communities of Silicon Valley and New York but there is no comparison. The Silicon Valley region has far more engineers, hosts far more startups and invests far more VC money than all the other top innovation regions combined.

No other region can reach the same scale in number of startups and VC investments and have the same tolerance of massed failed ventures.

However, other regions especially large urban centers, can compete with Silicon Valley in sourcing the next generation of successful startups.

A tree grows in Brooklyn...

I recently returned from visiting my kids Matt and Sarah who share an apartment in Brooklyn. They are in their 20s and I can see why they moved from the San Francisco area and why I would have done the same at their age.

The district where they live is full of small artist spaces, tiny but great restaurants, small but affordable apartments and great access to an astonishing number of events ranging from music to film to lectures to everything. You can take in as much as you want any day of the week.

And there's a tremendous amount of creativity everywhere from the graffiti on the walls, the quirky names of quirky stores, to the individual self-expression on the street. It's a university without limits. It teems with young people mixing and talking with each other. It's a massive incubator of ideas. It offers a stark contrast to Silicon Valley's homogeneous monoculture.

Painless and clueless..

New York city is a vast urban landscape with big problems and seemingly unsolvable challenges. But where there is pain there are opportunities to find solutions that solve and salve. Successful startups solve tough problems. And that's where New York city has the advantage.

Silicon Valley engineers get on the same bus everyday. They stand silently on San Francisco street corners -- not even nodding hello to each other -- waiting to be bused 40 miles to a business park campus.

Each day is made predictable and indistinguishable.

Each day Silicon Valley engineers are insulated from the daily experience of everyone else. Their food is free, their haircuts are free, their snacks are free, their apartments are cleaned, their laundry is folded and their commutes are always on time. Life is frictionless and painless.

Engineers solve problems -- but if they don't see any problems there is nothing to solve. This is why Silicon Valley is running out of original ideas.

How many varieties of email organizers, dating, and to do list apps do we need?

Original ideas require original experiences yet Silicon Valley employers have done their best to segregate and insulate their creatives from the diversity of experiences in life's daily struggles.

In contrast, New York city teems with original experiences and it brims with a diversity of genders, skin colors, ages, ideas, cultures and art. Which environment will generate the most original startups?

New York has another the advantage over Silicon Valley.

All cities are similar to each other. Solve a problem in one and you've solved it in every city -- that's a massive potential market.

Silicon Valley won't go away -- it'll be where startups will go to scale. But don't expect many -- if any -- original startups from this dull, segregated business park culture.

Innovation grows in places where a diversity of problems are found.

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