As a computer geek Silicon Valley can almost be seen as the point around which our world spins. For those that haven’t been there I can’t recommend enough heading out to see what all the fuss is about. I mean forget that the climate is, well, pretty fucking special and that cycling to work (in any season) doesn’t mean making sure everything you buy is windproof and waterproof. What blew me away most of all was the staggering number of tech companies.
Within walking distance of my accommodation there was a Yahoo!, McAfee, Cisco, Intel (this place seemed to stretch for miles), not to mention hundreds of other smaller tech companies scattered around the area. If you can’t get a job as a developer in the Valley then you must really question your hygiene.
So is there any chance of this sort of thing happening in this country (the UK) or in particular Scotland? Ehhhh, no chance. Why?
Well I don’t claim to know exactly why, in fact, I admit it’s somewhat of a guess. One thing that I’m certain matters is the number of people who are studying computing at university. In recent years this number has plummeted. For me this is a key point. Until you have got talent, and lots of it, pouring out of universities there is no chance that the Google, the Microsofts and Facebooks of this world are going to even consider a small office, never mind a campus. It’s just not worth it.
There is also a different mindset amongst the graduates here than there is at, say, Standford. It’s just staggering how many undergraduates are considering coming straight out of collage and starting their own business (Startup School was just full of them). It’s ingrained into their psyche. I’d almost guarantee you that if I went to a lecture theatre full of final year students here in Glasgow tomorrow and asked how many are seriously considering starting their own business I’d be able to count them on the one hand and have four fingers left over.
Most students will be happy getting a job at JP Morgan or some other mundane banking establishment where you are simply a cost centre.
This is a vicious circle as the reason that Google, Yahoo!, Twitter, Facebook (to an extent) all have large campuses in Silicon Valley is because this is where they were born. So without this embryonic growth pattern it’s hard to see how places like Scotland can create and attract these large software companies. The fact is the talent is just not here in sufficient numbers. To get the gist of the situation, just ask yourself how many people in your current job are really really smart and productive, it will be low, now imagine how you get 500+ more of them.
I hate to be knocking us as a nation but something has to change and it has to be BIG for there to be any hope of being part of this technical revolution. Or maybe that boat has already well and truly sailed.