A year into the COVID-19 pandemic Silicon Valley is in a funk. This is “the end of Silicon Valley as we know it,” Tim O’Reilly writes.
The pandemic has proven that you can do a lot of tech jobs from anywhere, as I’ve been doing since 1983. Silicon Valley was uniquely positioned because it was where the money was. Thus, it was where the deals were. Thus, it was where the jobs were.
But once you have the money, the work (and your life) can easily be elsewhere. This has been true in Hollywood for generations. Most stars don’t live there. In the search for lower costs, film production is always on the move. To Albuquerque. To Atlanta. To wherever you can make a deal. Eventually, the deals are made where the work is being done. Tyler Perry is just one example.
The same is true for the money business. The New York Stock Exchange was a TV set long before the pandemic. Businesses and brokers are everywhere. Billionaires live where they want. It was the grunts and the strivers who were locked into Brooklyn apartments, commuting over the bridge to Wall Street. Technology is spreading the wealth.
The question isn’t why this is happening to the Valley. The question is why didn’t this happen sooner? This is going to have enormous economic and political implications.
It won’t take too many more remote workers in Boise, Laramie, and Billings to turn Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana as blue as California. Brains are the gating factor to economic growth everywhere, and when brains move to the countryside, they bring their values with them.
The efforts of Florida and Texas to lure “Silicon Valley” there with tax breaks is going to change those states. Tech companies need a steady stream of highly educated, motivated minds to grow. That means more money for research, more liberal academics in College Station, and eventually the whole thing tips over.
The pandemic has collapsed 10 years of technology change into one. But that change isn’t reversing. If anything, it’s accelerating from its previous pace. Technology’s needs are now the needs of all business. Every business is now a technology business. Every valley is Silicon Valley.