I’ve just got back from a week in Silicon Valley (via Canberra for the budget) attending NetSuite’s SuiteWorld conference.
Tech dominates the economy in Silicon Valley and every bus stop advertisement and billboard was for a tech business, from the behemoths like Apple and Salesforce to more recent entrants like Uber or Lyft.
Everyone has an Apple Watch, Pebble or FitBit on their wrist and the topic of conversations is startups, disruption, omnichannel, omnibusiness and really anything omni at all.
The attraction of Silicon Valley for Australian SMEs is of course the contacts and the potential for raising cash.
In his book Startupland, Zendesk founder Mikkel Svane compares the flood of tech businesses to Silicon Valley to a gold rush.
“[A] modern day one fueled by the Internet and a severe case of being bitten by the TechCrunch bug,” he says.
But Guy Kawasaki, Canva’s “chief evangelist”, downplayed the importance of Silicon Valley when I chatted to him in San Francisco.
“It’s not like the people in Silicon Valley dream big and in San Diego people don’t dream the same way,” he says.
The very technology that attracted businesses to Silicon Valley has resulted in a very flat world.
Kawasaki says SMEs can be based anywhere in the world.
“For a tech startup just about everything you need now is free or cheap, marketing is social media, infrastructure is much cheaper than using your own services, you can work virtually so you don’t need offices,” he says.
Canva is a great example of this. Based in Australia, the graphic design company has raised finance from both Australia and the US and relies on its US team, including Kawasaki as well as staff around the world, including the Philippines.
Silicon Valley is an important hub for the tech industry and it has the advantage of a critical mass of tech businesses.
But as the barriers to entry decrease it is going to matter less and less whether your business is based on the Sunshine Coast or in Silicon Valley.
Silicon Valley is far from irrelevant but as the world flattens its influence wanes.
Cara Waters travelled to San Jose as a guest of NetSuite which paid for her flights and accommodation.