Nations around the world are trying to replicate Silicon Valley. But you can’t simply “take one great research university, add venture capital, and shake vigorously,” says Richard Florida in his article for The Atlantic, How Startups Have Changed The Way American Business Thinks.Rather, he says, “America’s Start-Up Economy emerged out of a half-century or more of painstaking and deliberate effort.”
Florida earned a name for himself a decade ago when he came up with the now-famous term “Creative Class,” which he used to describe post-War American workers who focused on innovation, R&D and information technology. He’s written a ton on the subject — including The Rise of The Creative Class — and inspired New York Times columnist David Brooks’ Bobos in Paradise. He now heads up University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute and a consulting firm, Creative Class Group, which advises clients including Microsoft, BMW and Goldman Sachs.
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Nearly two decades ago, I worried that we were being beguiled by something I called the “breakthrough illusion.” In a book of the same name that I co-authored with my friend and colleague Martin Kenney, I argued that our relentless focus on startups was hampering our ability to follow through — that we were ceding too many of the high-paying manufacturing jobs and technical expertise that flow from actually making things to other nations. Many of my fears have been borne out. Our start-up-fuelled breakthrough bias has helped create an economy that is more adaptable but also more disruptive: It generates new industries while sacrificing old ones. The process of economic development becomes more uneven; innovation and growth are highly concentrated in certain places. Communities, regions, and whole classes of Americans endure periods of pain and hardship as the locus of innovation shifts from one place to another, and more and more production work is off-shored.
Still you have to ask yourself: On balance, what kind of economy would you rather have — a dynamic, innovative, self-revolutionizing one, or a staid and static one, built around older and potentially more vulnerable industries?
What makes some places more fertile ground for startups than others? Some believe there’s a simple, almost magical formula. “Take one great research university, add venture capital, and shake vigorously” is the way a Silicon Valley wag once put it. The past several decades have seen no shortage of efforts in the United States and around the world to build the next Silicon Valley. It should come as no surprise that very few of these efforts have succeeded.
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