Stop trying to make more Silicon Valleys, VC Brad Feld argues in a new book that comes just as techies are relocating to cities across the US

  • Startup communities are too unique to be replicated or controlled, Techstars founder Brad Feld and researcher Ian Hathaway write in their new book: "The Startup Community Way: Evolving an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem."
  • "The Startup Community Way" is a deep, theoretical take on what makes startup communities thrive due out July 28.
  • Local tech scenes are special because they unpredictably come up with powerful new ideas, Feld and Hathaway write.
  • One way to cultivate idea generation is to avoid letting startup communities like those in Silicon Valley, Boston, and Boulder be dominated by local government or any one person within those communities, they argue.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Stop trying to be like Silicon Valley. 

That's the message from venture capitalist Brad Feld to cities and regions around the world trying to cultivate their own tech scenes.

"Many researchers, consultants and community builders search for a blueprint to become the next Silicon Valley," write Feld and researcher Ian Hathaway in "The Startup Community Way: Evolving an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem," a new book due out on July 28.

"Such ideas," they argue, "are flawed because each startup community is unique and deeply influenced by local history and culture."

Feld knows a bit about the subject. In 2006 he cofounded Techstars, a VC fund focused on early stage startups, in Boulder, Colorado, more than 1,200 miles from the tech capitals of San Francisco and Palo Alto, Calif.

The book, which Business Insider obtained an advanced copy of, is particularly timely as the coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdowns have prompted many techies to leave Silicon Valley and relocate to places where the cost of living is lower. Tech companies like Twitter have said they will allow staffers to permanently work remotely.

According to the book's authors, startup communities, like those in Silicon Valley, Boston and Boulder are each so unique that attempts to replicate or control them are futile.

"There is an urge (almost an obsession)," they write, "to compare startup communities to one another by tabulating a set of standardized metrics," like startup rates, total venture capital, and how many exits a community has.

The misguided mentality is evident even in the monikers adopted by fledgling tech hubs — Silicon Slopes in Utah, Silicon Forest in Oregon, to name a couple.

The real value of these tech scenes, Feld and Hathaway write, lies in "emergence," their ability to unpredictably generate influential ideas. But the creative potential of startup communities, they argue, which thrives on a free-flowing exchange of ideas between entrepreneurs, diminishes when tightly controlled by larger authorities like a local governments.

"The process of value creation occurs naturally without a plan or controlling authority," they write. "This requires a different approach to building startup communities from the traditional command-and-control strategies applied in the industrial era that linger on today."

Local governments should instead focus on providing support to local entrepreneurs by listening to their needs and providing them with resources, the book argues.

Even individual startups shouldn't have an outsize influence within their communities, the authors write.

"Accepting that you are not in control is one of the most powerful actions that a participant in a startup community can take," Feld and Hathaway write. Aspiring tech hubs must accept this messy nature, they argue, since "attempting to control a complex system is a futile attempt to impose a complicated view on it. It won't work."

Feld co-founded seed accelerator Techstars in 2006 and early-stage venture capital firm Foundry Group in 2007, and frequently publishes his thoughts on his blog. Analyst Mark Fidelman named him the most respected venture capitalist in 2011.

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