"Could you reproduce Silicon Valley elsewhere, or is there something unique about it?" the venture capitalist Paul Graham asked in a much-quoted keynote address at Xtech back in 2006. Graham then went on to describe the key ingredients (a great university, an attractive town, smart people, youth, a tolerance for eccentricity and different thinking, and a cluster of other start-ups) that make Silicon Valley the unique ecosystem for entrepreneurial innovation that it is — and that differentiate it from its would-be imitators and competitors.
My team at the Martin Prosperity Institute recently asked a similar, if slightly cheekier, question: "How many Silicon Valleys could the world possibly contain?" After gathering as many of the cities, groups of cities, or regions across the globe that have been compared, contrasted, or branded as Silicon-something (and not surprisingly, there were a lot), the MPI team mapped and tabulated the results.
As the interactive map above (click on the tabs for details) clearly shows, there are "Silicon Somewheres" on every continent in the world, from El Barrio Silicon in Buenos Aires in the south to "the Next Silicon Valley" in Russia's Akademgorodok in the north; from the Silicon Valley of Zhongguancun, China in the east, to Ketchikan, Alaska's Silicon Valley of Rare Earths in the west. Not surprisingly, the lion's share of them are in the continental United States and northern Europe.
Also not surprisingly, none of these contenders come close to the real thing. When all of the patents they produced between 1996 and 2005 were broken down by location, Santa Clara's total of 49,424 towered over every comer's (the average number of patents was 2,033).
The researchers are continuing to update their map and invite readers to tweet them (@Siliconias) or email them at siliconias(at)martinprosperity.org with any other "Siliconias" they may have come across in their community and elsewhere, so they can continue to update and refine their map.
This is the second in a series of posts exploring the new geography of venture capital and high-tech start-ups, and the degree to which these start-up communities are shifting from their traditional locations in the suburbs to urban areas.