The Silicon Valley mindset


By - Monday 18th November, 2013

Croydonian coder, recent California transplant, and new Citizen writer Andrew Easter examines Croydon’s potential to become the next Silicon Valley

 


“Silicon Valley from above”
Image by Patrick Nouhailler. Used under Creative Commons license.
http://goo.gl/okk5oB

It’s not every day that a software engineer from Croydon gets an opportunity to spend some time working in Silicon Valley, and so I didn’t take much persuading when my company proposed a two month assignment in San Jose, California. As I’d only recently become part of the #Croydon #TechCity community, it seemed a fantastic chance to compare South London’s fledgling tech scene with the spiritual home of tech startup activity.

It’s been just over a month since I arrived and, having now had the chance to bed myself into living and working in the area, I thought I’d share some insights that have been brewing in my mind ever since I touched down in West Coast California.

The origins of Silicon Valley can be traced back to well before the birth of what now seems synonymous with the the area – the internet. Whilst hardware, specifically semiconductors, was, and continues to be, at the roots of the technology industry over here, innovation in software has really captured the public’s imagination. Internet software startups continue to pop up in their thousands; Silicon Valley is in good health. But, is there anything truly unique about this area that cannot be matched elsewhere in the world?

There’s an evident belief that technology somehow belongs here

Let’s get this out of the way first – the weather over here rocks. It hasn’t rained once since I arrived. But are we seriously to believe that a dry, mild climate is a precursor to tech innovation? I don’t think so.

There’s also Stanford University. It’s ranked as the second best university in the world, and there are clear associations between Stanford and the early development of Silicon Valley. Plenty of successful startup founders are ‘almost graduates’ of Stanford – many drop out before graduating! However, there are plenty of fantastic universities around the world, many nurturing cutting edge developments in technology. And, don’t forget, a university education is not the ultimate predictor of success in the technology industry.

In my opinion, what Silicon Valley has, as a clear advantage, is momentum. There’s an evident belief that technology somehow belongs here – the sheer existence of so many technology companies, both large and small, is inspiration for the next generation of innovators to set up in the area. Nobody seems to question this – the seed was planted many years ago and it’s grown into a thriving redwood (shameless Californian link). The indigenous talent allows the area to quite easily sustain itself and many others, happy to believe in the hype, continue to be attracted from the outside. It’s a mindset. Put simply, it’s fashionable to be here if you’re in tech.

The tech community needs somewhere to further expand, and I believe Croydon provides an ideal solution

But, don’t we already have evidence that the same seed can grow elsewhere? It’s happened on the doorstep of Croydon, in a previously undesirable area of East London. We’ve come to call it Silicon Roundabout and it’s already home to a huge number of startups, as well as some of the bigger names who’ve relocated to get in on the action.

However, the rapid success of Silicon Roundabout is now rapidly becoming prohibitive to its future growth. Rents in the area are now rivalling the traditionally higher priced City and West End, and yet startups are the very businesses who can least afford high cost office space.

So, the talent is indigenous, the community is thriving, and yet it’s being bitten by the hand that used to feed it. The momentum we must emulate is in danger of being stunted just before we’ve fully reaped its self-sustaining, inspirational benefits. The tech community needs somewhere to further expand, to lay new foundations for growth, and I believe Croydon provides an ideal solution.

It’s already started, slap bang in the middle of my hometown, and it’s called #Croydon #TechCity

What? Croydon? Get right out of town! Okay, so it may not be the world’s most desirable destination, but, remember, Silicon Roundabout was undesirable before the startups moved in. Croydon has its faults – be honest, few places are perfect – but it’s quirky and it’s got a growing, diverse cultural scene. What’s more, it’s got a shed load of cheap office space, and is extremely accessible via public transport. Most importantly, I believe that the mindset so critical to Silicon Valley’s sustained success is a mindset that can be established wherever there are passionate people to support it – Croydon included.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a great time over here in San Jose – it’s awesome to have such an accessible tech community to plug into, and then there’s the weather… But, I will be coming home soon, and I’ll be craving a replacement. I don’t think the South East possesses a more suitable home to nurture and grow this replacement. It’s already started, slap bang in the middle of my hometown, and it’s called #Croydon #TechCity.


To reserve your place at November’s #Croydon #TechCity event on Thursday November 21st 7:30pm at Matthews Yard, make sure you sign up now on Facebook or  to confirm your attendance.

Andrew Easter

Andrew Easter

Andrew is a Co-Founder at Unroutine. He is an experienced (10+ years) technologist and software engineer/architect, formerly the Lead Platform Engineer at Gumtree.com. An active tech blogger and tweeter, you'll also be sure to find him engaged in many a debate on tech mailing lists, covering, amongst other things, framework implementation and software design principles. When Andrew is not writing code, and obsessively researching the best ways to build software, he'll probably be cycling, playing tennis, doing something musical, or watching Formula One.

More Posts - Website - Twitter