Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On Why Proximity Matters (Because…Network Density)

2015-09-10 18.24.01

“When can we declare victory with respect to tech-based economic development? Because we can’t be like Silicon Valley, but there should be a definition of success besides that.”

I’ve heard this sentiment several times from politicians, policy makers and the media. One answer I heard was “when you can quit a job in the morning and get another in the afternoon”.  I’m not sure about the validity of the claim for a place that touts tech being a significant segment of their economy, but I know the statement speaks to network density.

It isn’t enough to have a helpful business assistance program, a tax credit law, a business-friendly property zoning, a research-based university, a good school district, a charming downtown with nightlife, or a safe residential community. Not only do you want all of the above, but you want a high concentration of them.

When I traveled to Silicon Valley 5 or so years ago from Hawaii on business, I had a 3 hour gap in my schedule towards the end of the day. It would have been perfectly reasonable (and pragmatic of me) to head to a cafe with WiFi and catch up on my email and make some phone calls. But when you have network density, things are different. During my morning visit at Plug and Play Technology Center, I found out about another event taking place in the late afternoon, and I was able to snag an invite. BAM!

Most recently, I was given an introduction to meet with a busy mover and shaker. Several days later, I received an email in the afternoon from him apologizing for the late response, and that he could meet me tomorrow, although he had a showcase event that evening in the city that would be a great overview for me.  I would only have a few hours to figure out a ride from South Bay, but I dropped everything to make the event, because that’s what you can do when you are in Silicon Valley. BAM!

In both cases, I came home inspired, meeting new people I learned from, new ideas that made me think, and most importantly, actions I would take (differently) after that evening.

You can’t control what kind of product or service, business or entity, such interactions will create, and you aren’t meant to be able to control it. The point is that when you foster an environment, an ecosystem rich with opportunities and interactions, something out of the ordinary is bound to happen. And when it does, you hope you are ready to drop everything and embrace it.

Photo: “Factory”, a renovated Victornian house where executives of established companies come with a problem they want to solve, and leave with a prototyped solution, San Francisco, California.

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This entry was posted on September 21, 2015 by in Entrepreneurship, Management and tagged , , .
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