Saturday, October 17, 2009

Reverse Brain Drain?

There's always been a crap load of doom-saying about Silicon Valley, and the latest one by Vivek Wadhwa talks about how Chinese and Indian "young guns" are returning to the mother country.

This sort of thing has been around for a long time. For instance, Ed Yourdon wrote Decline and Fall of the American Programmer in 1992, just as I was graduating college with (you guessed it!) a degree in Computer Science. 1992! Within 3 years we had the internet revolution, and the poor guy, rather than recanting, wrote another book so you could pay more money to see why he was wrong. (Read Peter Norvig's review of the book at the above link. It's a hoot!)

It's very tempting to write off California and Silicon Valley (especially right now with an unemployment of 12%), but it's always reinvented itself. It's no a coincidence that when Paul Graham settled on only one location for Y-combinator, it had to be Silicon Valley. No where else is failure not regarded as a black mark on your career, and no where else can you get lawyers who'll help you out in exchange for startup stock. In fact, when my friends and I discuss startups and places that attract engineers, even San Francisco startups get the short-shrift.

My take on this current cycle of doom and gloom is that the Sanjay Mavinkurves (mistakenly identified as an engineer in the New York Times article --- he's actually a product manager) of this world will continue to fight tooth and nail to stay in Silicon Valley, while the ones who return will eventually learn that performance is extremely contextual, something that American culture doesn't recognize, but Silicon Valley does --- as evidenced by Facebook's move from Boston to Palo Alto once they got funded. (Also make sure you read the New York Times all the way to the end --- look at the number of corrections necessary --- all reflection of the eagerness of the media to portray Silicon Valley as being in trouble over immigrants)
Post a Comment