Why Wasn't New York City Silicon Valley to Begin With?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Richard Florida is the Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto, a Global Research Professor at NYU and a senior editor at The Atlantic. He traces the roots of why the tech sector grew in the orange groves of California as opposed to the canyons of New York  -- and why he thinks tech is primed to return to cities.


Richard Florida

Comments [29]


I love this show, and am an avid listener. This segment is ridiculous! It's fundamental premise is that everything important and worthwhile necessarily began in the NY metropolitan area. When it's not pondering why NYC isn't the center of the world, it's dealing in superficial stereotypes about "California counter culture." Boo!!

May. 16 2014 04:07 PM
Eric from Albany CA

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand why Silicon Valley became the center of the IT industry instead of Boston or New York:

May. 15 2014 02:33 PM
Adam from NJ

Shockley Semiconductor was mentioned but I don't know if the collective name for the group was included in the story.

From Wikipedia:
Shockley told the young scientists that were leaving that they were the "traitorous eight" and they would never be successful: Julius Blank, Victor Grinich, Jean Hoerni, Eugene Kleiner, Jay Last, Gordon Moore, Robert Noyce, and Sheldon Roberts.

May. 15 2014 12:28 PM

Meanwhile, the VCs, wherever they are, appear to fund young Caucasian men in the vast majority. And Silicon Valley companies essentially created a cartel to fix salaries. (Steve Jobs, thinking different? Nope.) Sean Parker and one of the founders of Kleiner Perkins use Holocaust metaphors to complain about their persecution.

The products and the software are amazing. The culture? I would love to see Florida figure out that problem; feels like the robber barons.

Yes: I know there are initiatives to change this (Etsy has been highly supportive of women engineers, is working); it just seems particularly ironic that this theoretically "wide open" culture doesn't seem very diverse.

May. 15 2014 12:09 PM

Despite the hype, Richard Florida has actually been wrong on just about everything.
Amazing how the liberal media has their pets who they promote endlessly, but never assess their actual work. ("Well, gee, it SOUNDED like a cool idea.")

May. 15 2014 11:30 AM

New York is a playground for oligarchs, trust fund babies, and assorted other "patrician" riff-raff. Not a place for innovation. New York is about as exciting as Beverly Hills except with worse weather and less green space. Can't wait to get out of this region.

May. 15 2014 11:19 AM
foodaggro from Brooklyn


May. 15 2014 10:22 AM
er-nay from UWS

This is one of the stupidest segments I have ever heard. Typical NY-centric thinking about everything. They went to California because they are geeks and coders and it's the path of least resistance. You're confusing them with "artists" and therefore they should be in New York.

May. 15 2014 10:20 AM
RJ from prospect hts.

You're missing the Vietnam war, the red-lining, the race and class tensions in NYC--the tech people you're talking about got open space out in CA, which was also pretty uptight and had its own closed finance sector in the 70s (I lived out there in what is now the area taken over by the Valley millionaires). The financial rule over NYC--the Financial Control Board--the fight against any poor-supporting action that Mayor Lindsay took as a priority over the finance industry--there are many factors that you left out of this discussion.

May. 15 2014 10:18 AM
John A

Colleges are pastoral.
Silicon valley literally was a giant farm.
Where ya gonna play frisbee in the concrete jungle?

May. 15 2014 10:16 AM
John from west of the Hudson

They will still look at you in an uptight manner! The West Coast culture cannot be replaced on Wall Street, sorry. And Etsy in DUMBO is not going to make NYC the new tech capital. Google is everywhere, not just in Chelsea.

Crazy to think NYC will rule the tech world as if it's natural law. Another biased cheerleader.

May. 15 2014 10:16 AM
Oscar from Harlem

Silicon Valley thrived for a while thanks to culture of yes and attraction of building something new. Policies also have an effect. But all other things being equal, isn't the diversity of businesses in a big, dense city more important to innovation than any other factor? Innovators getting exposure to different types of problems to solve, different experiences to incorporate and "remix" into new products and services. Proximity to serendipity trumps all, right?

May. 15 2014 10:15 AM
Pamela Seymour Smith Sharp from Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Please don't overlook the history of Billy Kluver and Bell Labs "Experiments in Art and Technology"!!

May. 15 2014 10:15 AM
Nina from Brooklyn

Two huge parts of tech development on the west coast that I haven't heard are: the power of the University of California (an elite public university -- not everyone went to Stanford haha), and heavy immigration from Asia (East, South, Southeast). Those highly educated immigrants brought their excellent tech education and found a welcome home on the post-1965 (Hart-Celler Act) California.

As a CA to NY migrant, I'm really surprised how under-funded SUNY and CUNY are -- because that's where the next great ideas and entrepreneurs will come from.

May. 15 2014 10:14 AM

The people that thought up stuff lived in Calif., Washington State is cheaper there too and that's what they needed. I worked in Silicon Alley in the late 90s...we were crammed in a small space that mad it impossible to do our jobs. NY has NOTHING that would make entrepreneurs wanna move to to set up a business/industry.

May. 15 2014 10:13 AM
Pamela Seymour Smith Sharp from Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Please don't overlook the history of Billy Kluver and Bell Labs "Experiments in Art and Technology"!!

May. 15 2014 10:13 AM
Amy from Manhattan

IEEE, the Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers, is based in NYC & NJ, & it has a computer engineering division.

And John from NYC, yes, to some extent I do associate Columbia U. w/tech.

May. 15 2014 10:13 AM
Shelli from Queens ny

The breakup of ATT ...Bell Labs lost funding for research
Also IBM research stopped funding research

May. 15 2014 10:12 AM

Real estate costs still too damn high!

May. 15 2014 10:11 AM
Joanne from Randolph, NJ

Will Cornell follow thru with its plans to build a comp sci hub on Roosevelt Island?

May. 15 2014 10:11 AM
John A

Engineers are about team sharing and honesty.
The big cities are too identifiable with the big sell: money and lies.

May. 15 2014 10:11 AM
antonio from baySide

My assertion of 'transit' may sound crazy in my previous post, but they way it's structured here is so manhattan centric. Areas outside the core, gets really poor...

May. 15 2014 10:08 AM
Fishmael from NYC

oooooo! Can we get the douchey buses, too!?

May. 15 2014 10:08 AM

White flight as reversed. Because of gas prices and increased travel time, and the fact that the suburbs are no longer peaceful and quiet. It has nothing to do with high tech'.

May. 15 2014 10:08 AM
John from west of the Hudson

Bell Labs *was*, rather ...
(Same with IBM.)

May. 15 2014 10:06 AM
John from NYC

It is because of the hostility to technology and engineering in our elite institutions.

Do you associate:

Columbia University
The New School
New York Times
Atlantic Magazine
Harpers Magazine

With engineering, computer science, technology ???

Liberal arts yes
technology no

May. 15 2014 10:05 AM
John from west of the Hudson

Also Bell Labs is not New York City.

May. 15 2014 10:03 AM
John from west of the Hudson

A: Culture. Plain and simple.

I agree with the premise that tech is finding its way back into urban centers, but Prof. Florida's view seems very US-centric (odd, since he's at Univ. Toronto). NYC is way behind the curve, the trend is analogous to what is happening with artists in the city, all despite this push for a Tech Campus to rival Cali. Who can forget Silicon Alley?

And what about Stockholm, Dublin, and Singapore? One-tenth of computer games in the world come out of Stockholm, for instance.

May. 15 2014 10:02 AM
antonio from baySide

I'd say transit. Does Professor Florida think these giant tech companies should help subsidize transit and other infrastructure around the foot-print they will occupy?
Google could easily help pay for the creation of a street-car system in neighborhoods that need them (S.I. East New NY, Red Hook). That's good will you can't pay for...

May. 15 2014 10:02 AM

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