Saturday, January 19, 2008

The changing face of Silicon Valley

Intel announced closing of their last Silicon Valley fab this year. It is as fitting a marker as any for Silicon Valley's transformation, from a focus on silicon to a focus on all emerging technologies. This has been in the making since the late nineties, actually, when the Valley focus shifted from hardware to the Internet and its applications.

Perhaps, the birth of Internet giants like Yahoo, Google, Ebay, Amazon and others, in Silicon Valley gave us an indication of things to come. The Valley has kept up a hectic pace of technology advances in the last fifty years, and though the early days were clearly silicon chip dominated, it has never really been about silicon only. Where other areas like Michigan focused on automobiles and stayed with that focus, the Valley is relentless in its pursuit of change. Intel spokesman, Chuck Mulloy, is right - Silicon Valley is less about silicon and more about technology development.

The latest indication of yet more change headed our way is in the rise of clean tech investments by Silicon Valley VCs to over a $1B/year. Silicon Valley had $1.05B in 43 clean tech investments in 2007 compared to a total of $1.79B for all of California and $3.95B for all of North America. In this case, though the VCs reside here and many of the firms are based in Silicon Valley, not all the money stays in the Valley. But, the numbers clearly show that this is the place where much of the action originates. Though some of the investors worry about a bubble, they are resigned to the fact that they cannot do much to stop it. All they can do is to make sure they make the right bets and come out ahead.

The Valley does not just embrace change, it pursues change, and that is probably the biggest difference between Silicon Valley and the rest of the world.


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