1. In technology, those winners have a way of producing more winners. The process reaches critical mass in the web of intertwined companies, resources, advantages, ideas, talent, opportunity, and serendipity that defines a technology cluster.
It’s clear that what’s essential is proximity to human talent and new ideas. Jean-François Formela, a venture capitalist at Atlas Venture who invests in early-stage biotechnology startups, says he visits Boston-area academic labs several times a week, trying to find the next invention that he can license and turn into a company. And because there are so many PhDs and MDs in the area, he can start a company and build a team remarkably fast. “People don’t even have to change buildings,” he says. “They just switch floors.”
China’s political, financial, and cultural capital has been on a startup tear in recent years. In 2011, Chinese venture capital firms invested $13 billion, half as much as their U.S. counterparts—30 percent of it in Beijing. (The total investment dipped sharply in 2012 in the face of a national economic slowdown.) Beijing hosts rare concentrations of wealth and 68 institutions of higher learning, including China’s best computer science departments.
It wasn’t academia, industry, or even the U.S. government’s funding for military research into aerospace and electronics that had created Silicon Valley: it was the people and the relationships that Terman had so carefully fostered among Stanford faculty and industry leaders.
It was Silicon Valley’s high rates of job-hopping and company formation, its professional networks and easy information exchange, that lent the advantage. Valley firms understood that collaborating and competing at the same time led to success—an idea even reflected in California’s unusual rule barring noncompete agreements. The ecosystem supported experimentation, risk-taking, and sharing the lessons of success and failure. In other words, Silicon Valley was an open system—a giant, real-world social network that existed long before Facebook.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.