Sucked into the black hole

October 21, 2009 · 2 min read

Friends have wondered why I'm moving to San Francisco, especially since they know me as a New Yorker at heart. I researched a handful of cities extensively before deciding, so my choice is based on a lot of data. For instance, San Francisco has the highest population density of any large city other than NYC. It's also home to some of the most educated and high-income people in the country, 2 of the top 25 universities, and arguably one of the top 10 symphony orchestras.

But the biggest factors are qualitative. First, the Bay Area is the best place in the world to do a tech startup. I say this unequivocally because it is undisputed. People don't debate: "Where is the best place to do a startup?" They debate: "Are you crazy if you don't do your startup in the Bay Area?" Paul Graham, for one, says simply that startups would do better if they moved to Silicon Valley.

For the record, I agree with folks like Fred Wilson, who derides the startup hotbed inferiority complex and says: "Not every great tech company comes out of Silicon Valley and you don't have to be there to be a successful entrepreneur.... You can build a great startup in any of the dozen to two dozen startup hotbeds around the world." (So Fred, please don't call me a Silicon Valley bigot.)

Second, San Francisco is the only US city other than New York that has the properties of a black hole, by which I mean: People get sucked in, and you can't get them out. (Ask any recruiter in Seattle.) And SF has one of the highest costs of living in the US, which means people are paying a premium to be there and still won't leave. Moreover, people in a black-hole city seem to be so excited by what's happening there that they don't even think or talk about anything outside—as if they are beneath some event horizon beyond which even light cannot escape.

Economics says that when there's a gravity well that deep, there's a reason. I've lived in New York, and I know the reason there. I want to learn the reason for SF.

In the end, though, what convinced me is that I'm going to be a first-time entrepreneur, and I think I will learn faster in Silicon Valley than anywhere else—through exposure to peers, mentors, and the general milieu. There's nothing more valuable to me, since I have a lot to learn.

These days I do most of my writing at The Roots of Progress. If you liked this essay, check out my other work there.


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