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May 18, 2006

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Not fair, but congrats.

Phoenix should be on the list. Underventured, lots of talent. American Graduate School of International Management, and booming ASU tech school and biotech centers.

Love to host some stuff and set it up.

It's a DRY heat

Apparently you were here already and I missed you. I'll have a group ready to chat in Seattle when you're back in August-September though.

Looking forward to catching up with you on the Australian leg :-)

Rick (and Shel),

First - I applaud the travel, seeking out interesting smart people all around the world, and highlighting them.

But I have to take issue with Jason's point specifically about Chicago (where I'm from, though not where I am now) and about the description of "the valley".

I blogged about why I left Chicago months ago at my blog (http://blogs.jigzaw.com/?p=46) - the blog post is a letter which I had emailed to Ron May who's "The May Report" has covered the Chicago Tech scene (such as it is) for many years.

Chicago does indeed have 37 Signals, and they do really cool, great stuff. BUT they are small, private, and as best as I could tell from when I was living in Chicago and at least a semi-active member of the "tech scene" they almost never attended any Chicago area events, nor did they appear to be holding their own events or helping with other events (their recent Ruby Conference being a welcome change).

Chicago's tech scene is very limited, with lots of people pursuing generally "small" ideas. While there are many smart people in Chicago both living there and/or attending the University of Chicago, Northwestern or downstate the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, very few of this constant inflow of talent find jobs (or start companies) in Chicago. There is not a virtuous circle of events, investors, employees, and "take over the world" attitude that while perhaps not always needed, certain is helpful in building successful tech based ecosystems with lots of "winners" (in every sense, for the investors, for the founders, for the employees, for the customers and for the world as a whole).

In contrast in just a few months here in the Bay Area (I started spending most of my time out here last Fall, returned to Chicago over Dec, and moved back here full time in mid-January.) I have formed more (and deeper) connections than I had in years in Chicago, sure some of these relationships are built on relationships I had fostered while in Chicago, but many are completely new.

They are renewed not by random, one day "wandering" through "the valley" but by particpating in the highly welcoming and diverse community here in the Bay Area. In the publicly announced events - networking parties, launches, demos, seminars, and in the many gatherings private or semi-private where conversations continue.

Critically these are not all "just talk", many people here are looking very specifically at "how can I help you" (and then at some point in time, usually not at the same time, what help do I need". I've been invited to brainstorming meetings in VC's offices, had dinners where the founders of organizations and companies I had only previously read about just stopped by. But all that aside, and granting that I'm perhaps not the typical transplant to the bay area (though I'm perhaps more typical here than not) that's not what makes this such a vital and helpful place for many startups.

[quick explanation of above. I run MeshForum (http://www.meshforum.org) a conference where Shel just spoke at, I've also since this Fall been helping co-organize SFWIN (http://www.sfwin.org) a monthly networking event for web 2.0 in San Francisco where about 5 companies each month demo their applications. I'm also trying to sell off technology I had built while in Chicago, assisting a number of startups, consulting, helping with a number of other events, exploring some event related businesses, and writing a book on Economics as Networks. So probably not a typical transplant but as I said more typical out there than nearly anywhere else]

What does make a huge difference out here is the deep connectivity of technology and "start up culture" into the general fabric of life here. It is extremely easy here (though impossible in a city such as Chicago generally) to almost ONLY know people who are also working for startups or in many cases successful tech companies such as Google, yahoo, etc. People expect (here in the Bay Area) to also change jobs and try many different things - in just the few months I've been out here, people I know have been moving between academia and businesses, between one company and another, between consulting and starting up their own firms. Others have finally gotten their next (or first) round of funding and are starting to "ramp up".

But there is a general, pervasive understanding of "how to do it" (which has had to shift somewhat with the changing cost structures, but entrepreneurs do tend to shift rather quickly). People "get" what to do to grow a successful company - and they see all around them up and down the valley, in San Francisco and even in the East Bay proof of the ability of a relatively few people, with a great idea, business model, technology, some luck and the right funding to truly change the world. And while I've been lucky to suddenly begin to know personally people who have either directly or just one "degree" away from this process have built very successful, large companies, in some cases many times over, many people here "know people who know people".

The critical difference here, however, is also that even if you do not, if you have just moved here not knowing anyone, you can still get to know people in a variety of forums - and then follow up with them. People will meet you for coffee, invite you to their offices to see a demo (or ask to see yours). They will introduce you to their investors (if they think there is a fit) or if not, they will point you to the multitude of events and resources that might help you figure out the next steps.

This attitude of "how can I help you", of talking with and interacting with apparent competitors, is not rare here. Sure there are exceptions, the entrepreneurs or their companies that suffer from a "not-invented here" perspective and often an unwillingness to help others) but not uncommonly their staff will take a different view.

So I wouldn't dismiss the Valley and I would encourage you to in your travels seek out not just the entrepreneurs whom you identify in some manner, but also take a look at the communities around them - how they find employees, how the community comes together to connect people to each other, the formal (and as importantly the informal) ways in which ties and bonds are formed and renewed.

Look also at the attitude and perspective people are taking - here I've met many people who very seriously are trying to change the world, trying to shape (or reshape or reframe) how people think about the world. Sure, not everyone succeeds, but so many have and are it is inspiring to those of us who are ourselves trying to change the world.

The impact and role of social bonds - formed through events such as Burning Man probably can't be overstated. These events (and that's not the only one) help weave communities here in the bay area together - and from those ties and bonds comes introductions, referrals, ideas, support, and at times staff, funding and customers.

In Chicago, while there were friendships I made while networking at tech events (including the ones I helped organize and run) these were relatively rare contrasted with out here, and there were far fewer chances to renew and enhance those bonds - fewer times we met for coffee, grabbed lunch, shared a ride, or talked while at the same party/event.

Still - great luck to you on your travels and I know you will find some great companies and people scattered across the country (and the world).

Shannon

see you in Vancouver in the fall!

Hope you make it to Bombay. Your last trip to Asia was China, this time try India. There are a lot of very interesting things going on here. If you do make it I would really enjoy a conversation.

Please let me know when your London dates are firmed up, I can't guarantee 'Smarts' but will show you some interesting stuff, have a great conversation and buy you a English ale ;)

regards
Al

You should have a poll and let your readers decide where you should go.

If you do India, Bangalore and Pune should be absolute musts...

If you land in the West Country of England, Rick, give me a shout. We're a bit like Robert Scoble's Montana down here, but there's huge potential.

I think that the Roadshow for VC across Canada is an excellent idea.

My 2 Cents, after meshin with students- they bring some good ideas out and are highly motivated ! So troll the universities !!

Let us know your itinerary so we can spread the news. Oh, and in case this wasn't a given, awesome idea Rick!

Planning on heading out to NYC?

Obviously you will be swinging by Cork, Ireland on part of your trip.

Shel is coming here for our Web 2.0 conference (conference)">http://www.itcork.ie/index.cfm?page=events&eventId=68">conference) on June 8th - he can do the advance recon for you!

You should take a quick detour to Africa - the mostly-forgotten continent when it comes to technology. South Africa might be the furthest ahead as far as web technology is concerned. Check out some of the attendees at the upcoming BarCamp Cape Town for leaders in the field there.

The best ideas won't be in bits and bytes ;-)

Wanna swing through Anchorage and Fairbanks, AK? I'd be happy to make the trip up from my place in Homer to join you - it's a small crowd, but fun.

just for GN..Zinio has discontinued Business 2.0 a few months ago.

Let me know how I can be of help in hooking you up with the right folks in Paris.

Um, Rick, didn't you just get back from circling the globe? What's up?

Hope to see you in Tokyo/Japan too. I'd be glad to offer my assistance in filling up your itiniary whilst you're here.

missed that you were in Asia.

if you are in Shanghai am more than happy to help you as translator - and hook you up with a lot of the Chinese bloggers.

Great idea. Wish I could be there!

Israel is doing scary stuff with voice, communication, and collaborative technologies. Unfortunately, lots of other scary stuff there too....

Way out in left field - Casa Iguana in Little corn Island, Nicaragua, is in the middle of nowhere, they generate their own electricity and are otherwise primitive, but have high speed internet, email, VOIP phone, etc, thanks to satellite, and get almost all of their business from the net.......Basically this place couldn't exist without modern technology. Great excuse for a break in the tour, and probably a good case study in how the net changes things...

http://www.casaiguana.net/

I'll see if I can think of some more...

Looking forward to seeing you in Winnipeg when you do your Canadian Roadtrip. There's lots happening here and the word needs to get out.

You should definitely check out Minneapolis as well, there is a lot going on there too that is worthy of closer examination.

Darren

Hi Rick,

Here are a few HOT Indian Tech Cities:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberabad - Hyderabad (Cyberabad/HiTec City)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chennai - Chennai
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pune - Pune
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gurgaon - Gurgaon

Expensive places you can leave out :)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noida (Not exactly a city)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mumbai - Mumbai
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangalore - Bangalore

Regards,
NagB /at/
Startups.in

Who's afraid of the New Europe?
How off-shoring and tax competition will change the economic and political landscape of Europe
http://www.thersa.org/audio/
http://www.thersa.org/events/detail.asp?eventID=1853

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