When it comes to innovation, place matters. Not necessarily because of proximity to facilities or investors (though those are lovely to have, of course), but because creativity is almost always a group endeavor -- big ideas are the product not of one big brain, but of many ideas pinging between several smart people.
Which is one reason Silicon Valley has reigned supreme as America's innovation capital for so long. The Bay Area draws smart people in droves who meet, collide and build amazing things there. That group energy in turn draws more smart people and the cycle continues.
But is the area's unchallenged dominance in tech innovation coming to close? That's the thought-provoking prediction of Rackspace futurist and Silicon Valley insider Robert Scoble. And Scoble's prediction of what new hub (or hubs) will rise in its place might surprise you even more than his prophecy of Silicon Valley decline.
From country song to creativity hub?
For most of us, small town America is the setting of most country Top 40 hits -- a place we look to when we're longing for a quieter lifestyle or some imagined version of the good, old days. Small towns aren't the type of places that are known for their future focus and innovation. That's changing, says Scoble.
"Silicon Valley has traditionally come to places like this and convinced innovators and companies to come to San Francisco area to build their technologies," he wrote recently on Medium. "I'm seeing signs that the flow of talent from small town America to Silicon Valley is reversing, though."
Scoble goes on to a list a few small towns (mostly near large research universities) that he feels exemplify this trend, including Urbana, and Champaign, Illinois and Blacksburg, Virginia.
Why is small town America on the rise?
Why are these towns increasingly retaining talent rather than see it ship out to Silicon Valley? One obvious reason, according to Scoble, is housing costs. The lunacy that is the Bay Area real estate market is making many top brains reconsider the math of a move. When Scoble visited small towns like Blacksburg, he reports, "everyone loved taunting me with their homes with big yards that cost a few hundred thousand compared to more than a million back home."
But the appeal of these places goes beyond a nice yard -- it's the whole lifestyle available when you're outside of the urban bubble. Small towns "are winning people and companies because way of life is much more friendly to families and, small town leaders have worked to fill in a 'livability gap.' Things like having nice bars, music events, and restaurants for entrepreneurs to hang out in after a long day working. Things like high speed internet. In Virginia they have gigabit wifi in some areas," Scoble points out.
Scoble offers a huge list of examples of companies, labs, and top tech minds that are staying put in small towns to support his argument. Check out the post for all the details.
Are you buying Scoble's argument that more innovators are going to resist the call of Silicon Valley and stay in small towns?