Copying silicon valley is a waste of time

Paris, often cold, wet & grey

Those who want to replicate Silicon Valley in Europe need to copy a few serious advantages that the bay area has:

1) Culture. I don’t mean the type that Paris has enough of, but an unburdened relaxed one where the nerds and geeks can feel at home. Where the air is filled with their buzz and their language, a pervasive vibe. If you’ve ever been to Palo Alto, Mountain View, Cupertino, Sunnyvale and spent time there as a geek you know that Paris has none of that. Maybe you can cordon off a piece and pretend but that’d be another ghetto isolated from Paris proper. A few European cities have it a little, Stockholm is most relaxed and London, Berlin and Amsterdam are getting better. But there too geek culture isn’t dominant. Don’t dismiss this point, one can’t grow a palm forest on the coast of Newfoundland either.

2) Venture capitalists / tech leaders. People who made a fortune in a high energy fast moving environment (the above culture) willing to spend a lot of time and money on fringe ideas that may make it, but probably not. Few Europeans are like that (culturally) and most are either retired or live in California. Very few are willing to live in Paris because Paris doesn’t have the culture described above so they won’t feel at home.

3) Climate. The bay area has a very pleasant climate tempered by the pacific. Paris and London are dank and cold almos half the year, Stockholm is a tad fresher but can get very cold and very dark in winter.

4) Regulatory climate. If people aren’t allowed to work more than 12 hour a day or must have very long holidays, many startups will fail. If they’re policed and burdened by too many regulations: same. How do you set up a successful tech business in Europe when the regulatory climate elsewhere just is far more permissive?

These are important points. I’ve long argued that Europe can set up a single valley clone as the EU but it’d probably have to be in Portugal where resistance to geek culture wouldn’t be as pronounced and the climate good enough to attract the VC and leaders. A city has to go a long way to accommodate the required geek and tech culture and allow its public space to become infused with their expressions and happenings and stuff they can spend their money on. That’s a tough call for natives to adjust to. Also it just takes a lot of time to make such a transformation. The bay area has grown into this for many decades. As for Google, Facebook and Alibaba they aren’t startups, they’re probably trying to service the french speaking market with native speakers. There won’t be much more to it.  Every European (provincial) capital wants to “be” the next silicon valley. It’s a lot of wasted energy and political ego. Waste of energy.