The relationship between innovation and geography seems like an ever returning meme in the New York Times. Today, they’ve published an article called “When it comes to Innovation, Geography is Destiny”. It would be useless for me to try and refute the theory again, because I’ve been there and done that time and time again – so here are the cold hard facts about life outside the valley:
- Less concentration of creative people – Less people to tap into about a new idea or new product. Less networking possibilities, as few places and events gather the creative minds together to build a culture of ideation.
- Less experimentation – There’s more of a culture of “use” than there is one of “create” – this is a problem particularly grave in europe when it comes to the web and technology.
- Less capital – naturally the VC eye is over the valley and little over India and China. Other places get only a small percentage of investment when it comes to technology-oriented innovation efforts.
Case study: ourselves
We’re a small company that’s grown out of opportunities started in the valley, but we’ve established ourselves in Portugal (where our whole team is from) for several reasons, mostly of a personal nature. The majority of our clients is however (you guessed it), between San Francisco and San Jose.
It sometimes feels claustrophobic to have the ideas and not the space or environment to put them into practice. We haven’t really found a solution to that problem, but I keep thinking about it. Not having VC readily available makes you try harder and bootstrap efficiently. Not having people to tap into around makes you work harder to engage in global conversations.
Embracing constraints applies perfectly to our position. We use the distance to produce better work. After we’re done setting the vision for a project (where communication is essential), we’re in our own space, alone although always reachable, creating towards a final solution. It involves trust (to overcome the distance), and it involves creativity – but aren’t those two key aspects of any project?
I’m an optimistic, and I like that idea to blend into the image of Webreakstuff as a team. As such, not being in the valley is an annoyance, but not a show-stopper. As long as we have the energy to keep working with our clients or on our own projects, the valley’s always at an airplane-reach. And so is everything that’s good about the place.
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