The mythology of Silicon Valley

When abroad, it’s not terribly awesome to mention that you’re from the United States (with the exception of maybe Kosovo). But, it’s a very different thing to say that you’re from California and more importantly, from San Francisco/Silicon Valley. While those not directly involved in technology will shrug it off and don’t care, anyone with a Twitter account or who ascribes to “social media-ism” is immediately quite interested in becoming your “friend”. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a janitor at Twitter (more on that in the future) as if you’re here, you’re in Silicon Valley, the 21st Century El Dorado.

Why? Why do people put so much faith in Silicon Valley as being the path to greater riches and success? It’s because of worthless blather like this article. The opening paragraph pretty much sums it all up as it gets worse from there:

LET the rest of the country worry about a double-dip recession. Tech land, stretching from San Jose to San Francisco, is in a time warp, and times here are still flush.

Tossing about the idea that the economy is having no effect on the web industry is not only ludicrous, but also irresponsible, as if the author is trying to purposefully lure the unsuspecting to the San Francisco Bay Area in order to trap them. Or maybe it’s just lazy journalist as that seems to be the main form of journalism these days. I haven’t any idea and honestly I don’t care beyond the fact that what she’s writing is a lie.

From a personal standpoint, I’ve been through three downturns here in the Bay Area (I use San Francisco, Silicon Valley, SF interchangeably as they’re all part of the same dog and pony show). I’m currently back in to the third one (which hasn’t really ended since 2008), on unemployment and just meeting by bills. It’s been the same cycle every time. I earn a very nice salary for two or three years and then I have one to two years with no work which then drains away everything I’ve saved. Some riches, huh?

And, it’s not just me. A former work colleague of mine has just been laid off again as well. My neighbor across the hall has also been through it twice, but currently has some part time work to make the bills as his unemployment long since ran out. Basically, everyone I know has had to take out EDD at some point in the last decade and most more than once. We joke about being “funemployed”, but we just say that to try and make the reality a bit less harsh which is that there is no future in SF Bay Area for most. Sure, there are the few that are mentioned in that article who pull in money with dumptrucks, but the vast, vast majority of us aren’t these people and will never be these people. We just make it possible for them while constantly having our feet kicked out from under us when we think about buying a home or having kids.

Then there’s the fact that all the big companies that are “hot” right now have actually been that way for five years or more. They’re nothing new and all the Facebooks, Twitters, and especially Groupons out there aren’t profitable–far from it as the new model isn’t to fool people in to buying stock in an over-inflated IPO, but more to sell to another company. This is even worse for the “little people” as those kinds of buyouts almost never trickle down and they’re stuck holding stock options that eventually get diluted in to nothing.

Naturally, one might ask why I’m still here after nearly 15 years of getting beat up repeatedly. A large part is because I’m from Northern California, so this is what I know as my home. Then it was because I was in college across the bay in Berkeley. After that, I got caught up in the initial rush of the first iteration of the web and articles like the one I linked to above were all around. After that, I have no idea. To some extent, I stayed because it was familiar and I didn’t have a lot of options as I was entrenched in web development and this was where all the web development jobs have been historically.

But, enough is enough. My time here is up and very soon, I’ll be moving out of San Francisco. I know when I’ve been beaten and the endless articles about the riches to had in Silicon Valley will never end no matter how incredibly wrong they are.