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Monday
May192003

Post-Bubble Silicon Valley

This weekend I came across a great Po Bronson article called Life in the Bust Belt from latest issue of Wired Magazine. The article describes life in Silicon Valley now that the Internet bubble has burst, comparing it to Detroit of all places.

If you recall, I'd longed for a description of present day life in the Valley after reading Silicon Valley Boys -- I think Bronson's 'Life in the Bust Belt' article fits the bill quite well. As I suspected, everyone is a little closer to earth these days -- preferring a stable but less exciting job to living on the edge.

For the most part, workers are happy to have a life back. "It's just a paycheck now," said one woman I rode Caltrain with. "I'm all right with that." At San Jose's Tech Museum of Innovation, I got into a conversation with a former headhunter, now doing HR. "The subsector of the industry that profited from chaos isn't counting on a recovery. Ever." She used to eat at trendy restaurants; now the highlights of her week are a regular dinner with friends (alternating among their apartments) and the volunteer tutoring she does at an elementary school. She says, "The question 'What do you do?' now refers more to 'How do you pay the bills?' than 'What is your purpose?'"

I'm not suggesting this article as a way to experience schadenfreude (finding malicious joy in others' pain). Rather, I think it's a way to get truer sense of how things have changed in Silicon Valley, for those who don't live there.

I actually disagree with Po Bronson on his view that the Silicon Valley is no longer an icon. Silicon Valley will always be an icon -- it just won't ever be the same icon of endless growth and prosperity it was in 1999. But who knows... nobody predicted what happened in the 1990s! ;-)

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