Surprisingly, after spending another week in the Valley, I've come to a conclusion that it really doesn't matter where you live anymore. As much as I believed for a long time that you had to be in the Valley to truly have the full benefit of the surroundings, this is no longer the case. Now don't get me wrong. You still have to get over there fairly regularly if you want to be on the cusp of innovation. It IS necessary to see it with your own eyes, to breathe it in and to talk in person with the right people. There's only one way and that is physically to get your ass on a plane and fly over (or drive....or swim and really "be the man!") I know this to be true simply because I always return from the Valley energized and raring to go.
The reason behind my change in thinking isn't driven by having seen another region which is similar to Silicon Valley. I still believe SV is truly in a world of it's own. This was driven home while I walked around the new Facebook campus (thanks Heiko!) You simply won't see this scale anytime soon in other regions. Berlin, London, etc. just won't get to where SV is fast. Maybe Berlin has a chance if tons of stars align and you have a boatload of patience but I am not betting on it.
The point, you ask? Well, it no longer matters! You can be just as successful building a business in Berlin or London or Timbuktu for all I care. Now I hear you all thinking "no shit, Paul! Everyone has written about this a million times trying to hype their respective region." You are very correct in thinking this. What most people, including myself, missed or better said, underestimated is that the people are what matters. It no longer has anything to do with the region. It is ALL ABOUT the people on your team. Also nothing really new but surely worth LOUDLY repeating.
What I am getting it is that the best entrepreneurs will make it happen. It's not enough to have good founders. You need a full team of get-shit-done folks. What's changed in the past 10 years is that you can now find such people outside the Valley. Yes, they remain few and far between but they increasingly exist.......and they TRAVEL! Why do you think developers are so goddamn expensive and hard to find outside the Valley too?
Further, a mindset of "get-stuff-done regardless of where you are" is growing. Ever more people say "fuck it, I'm going to live where I want to live". Be it because they want to be near their families, friends or like myself, immersed in Europe. You know what? I like it here. I'm staying. Maybe not forever in Hamburg but I sure as hell like the South of France. Switzerland is nice. Crap, the coastline of Croatia rocks. (OK, ok, secretly, I love the damn Autobahn and driving really, really fast! :-) Germany, yeah, you still rock!) I also don't need strip malls everywhere I go. I don't much care for the house prices of McMansions in the Valley. Others may and I have nothing against that. What does matter though is that I don't plan on exiting "the scene" soon. I want to continue doing everything possible to grow innovation in Europe. I'm not the only one and I also really, really like interacting wth folks in the Valley. There are cool, smart, motivated and hungry people there but also wherever you go. They are the ones I want around me regardless of where I live.
This makes me smile. I am glad to see this clearly upon my return to Europe. I have an even greater respect for the entrepreneurs here making it happen. Yup, it's harder and we may have more hurdles in our way as oppossed to being located in the Valley. But there are planes and it's easy enough to get over to the Valley (and increasingly NYC which has it's own benefits). I wish folks from the Valley spent more time on our shores. It would benefit the whole environment just as much and each time I see folks like Jeff Clavier, Dave Mcclure and many others here, I see how they add huge value. But, like I already said, it doesn't matter where you live. It's the mindset and you either have it or you don't. That unfortunately won't change just be relocating.