Early Reflections On Silicon Valley
I moved to Silicon Valley almost three months ago. I wanted to take some time to jot down my early impressions of SF and the Bay Area broadly.
I have been reading about SF’s local politics and tech scence for quite some time now. But, living in SF made me realize how much better and worse it really is in different ways. The local issues are much worse than I thought and everything that makes the Bay Area so special is much better and more visible than I hoped.
Outsiders typically know that Silicon Valley is the technology hub of the world. What often gets lost in such broad charaterization are the ingredients that collectively make the Bay Area so special :
Everybody wants to help and meet everybody. There are lots of reasons for why this is so. A major reason is the sheer density of financiers, advisors, story tellers, big tech companies and startups that make social and professional networks very dense (a bunch of points I talk about below also play into this). The focus on always getting better at one’s job and trying to find the global maxima in careers amplifies this.
The general interestingness quotient is very high. Most people intuitively get the practical power of information theory. An average person is very curious about how the world works. This isn’t surprising because technologists are always thinking about how things can be made better across every aspect of our society.
The lack of linearity in career progression of so many makes everyone subconsciously treat each other well. Lack of enforceable non competes and collaborative nature of early stage financing results in a very fluid labor market and mostly positive sum games. An intern today could become the CEO of a hot startup two years later.
Bay Area is a massive rationality suspension self contained machine. Normal people wouldn’t even bother thinking about, let along devote their lives and careers to the kinds of things that get experimented and funded here. A major upside of having thousands of story tellers running around telling their crazy visions of the future is social cohesion because these story tellers need people who are predisposed to hear their stories and not laugh them off.
There are so many people funding, advising, operating and startup new ventures. There is a constant race to do better, be better and help better. There’s almost a perfect competition for having good habits, consuming knowledge and being helpful. Everyone is trying to model off of each other on the basics so that they can compete with each other on things that truly matter. Every competitive edge gets priced in and becomes table stakes very soon because of the rich networks, general curiosity and intense information/knowledge sharing online and offline . While this isn’t always good, it does seem like its a net positive for most.
My overall impression so far is that living in the Bay Area is like owning the iPhone. It is very difficult to just explain how good it is to an outsider by listing out what’s good. One really has to experience it to even begin to understand what makes it what it is. I am still very early into my journey here and I plan on documenting more as I learn more about the Silicon Valley culture!
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