Forgive the rant, but we’ve come across a quite a bit of geography-bias lately in our travels in the tech world. There are some that think you’re nobody in tech if you don’t have an office in the Bay Area–and I don’t mean the Chesapeake Bay. We’re talking about San Francisco and the Silicon Valley. I call this limited vision “SF Goggles.” It comes from my days in wine PR, which has more in common with tech PR than you might expect.
Back in those days, my job involved working with boutique wine producers in Napa Valley, California. All made great wines. But when faced with a decreased demand for luxury wines, most winemakers were loath to believe that they weren’t just up against other Napa Valley wines–similar in quality, taste, and price point to their own products–but wines from all around the world. As long as they were offering something of equal or better quality to what the winery next door was producing–or offering something that their friends, who had wineries of their own, wanted to drink–they thought they were keeping up, even staying ahead, of the game. You might think this was simple snobbery. Perhaps. But not always. More often, it was simply a case of what my colleagues and I dubbed “Napa Goggles”–an inability to see beyond one’s own backyard and bubble of influence.
In high tech PR, sometimes we see something very similar – or what we like to call “SF/Silicon Valley Goggles.” Just because Silicon Valley has the reputation as “the” place to be for start-ups, doesn’t mean if you’re NOT there, you’re unworthy. Consider the Silicon Prairie, in Kansas City, Missouri, for example. The Midwest is a great breeding ground for innovative startups: it’s a fantastic place to see what the “real world” wants–and it’s not always a better video game.
Don’t get me wrong–I love the Silicon Valley, and cut my teeth as a young reporter there. It was awesome to live somewhere with a T1 internet line and electric vehicle charging stations way before the rest of the world was learning to drop the hyphen in “E-mail.” Though I’m sure DC (or at the very least, the Pentagon) had a T1 connection long before any of us dumped dial-up.
We’ve said here before that DC is great place for startups. But I think it bears repeating. The “other” Bay Area–Chesapeake Bay–is just as fertile a ground for great ideas. Maryland’s booming biotech industry is a great example.
Bottom line, it is experience, not location, which counts. And this is an area rife with experience. Just because some of our startup founders haven’t spent much, if any, time in the Silicon Valley doesn’t make them any less a contender in overcoming the same challenges faced by all startups, such as securing funding and launching a great product.
Think global, folks! Thanks to the Internet, the world is at our fingertips–and the Silicon Valley is but a mere, small part of it.
And that’s my rant. Have a great day, everyone.