Silicon Valley :
The Valley of Opportunity
Silicon Valley is one of the biggest IT base camps in the world that is located in the southern part of San Francisco bay area, California. Comprising the headquarters of big IT companies such as Google, Yahoo, Apple, and eBay; Silicon Valley is surely becoming the center of high-tech industry sectors.
The name originated from an article that Don Hoefler wrote in 1971; inspired by his entrepreneur friend, Ralph Vaerst. The term was used as a series of article in weekly trade newspaper Electronic News. The word "valley" refers to The Santa Clara Valley, the place where Silicon Valley is located; and "Silicon" refers to the high concentration of semiconductor and computer-related area.
One thing that is often untold from the story of Silicon Valley is the influence that immigrants brought in to the area. Silicon Valley grew because of the human resources: the engineers. The brilliant brains who developed the technologies are not of a homogeny. They are not entirely white nor genuinely American-borns. Indeed, one quarter of the engineers are from China mainland and India.
AnnaLee Saxenian, a professor of city and regional planning at the University of California at Berkeley is an economist who highlighted the benefits that immigrants brought about in Silicon Valley's development. She mentioned in her research that in 1990s, Chinese and Indian engineers were running 29 per cent of the Valley's technology businesses. By 2000, these companies collectively accounted for more than $19.5 million in sales and 73,000 jobs.
TiE (The Indus Entrepreneur), is one of the companies who were founded in Silicon Valley. TiE was founded in 1993 by Vinod Khosla, an Indian venture capitalist, who co-founded Sun Microsystems as well. TiE is a global network of technology entrepreneurs and professionals that helps them start their own businesses. It focuses on developing the know-how and skills through training and mentoring and mobilizing information through networking events. Now TiE has had 42 local chapters in 9 countries with 10,000 members, mostly come from South Asia.
The migrant engineers and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley have secured connections and channels to the best industries, linking them together in a strong network of IT specialists. The diversity brings even a greater advantage as the migrants are still communicating with people from their native nations, forming another set of network that bridge entrepreneurs from two different continents to work together and form a business partners. This is how Silicon Valley development works.
Sending production process to other countries has become a trend since manufacturing is increasingly costly if it is conducted in USA. Cost in China and India is far more affordable, providing only slightly lower quality control. However, the deal is still attractive and hence it drives more and more industries to send industries outside. The connection creates a benefit to those entrepreneurs back in the home countries. More small businesses in China and India have grown. More skilled-workers in India, for example, have brighter prospects to develop their skills as India's job market is not enough to absorb more than 700 million working age population. However, Silicon Valley development fruition is not always sweet to everybody. The role of immigrants in the Silicon Valley, while being very helpful, has also caused severe job loss to many local workers.
A paper produced in 2000 from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) argued that:
While openness to immigration is therefore generally needed, highly-skilled personnel, such as good scientists and entrepreneurs, are even more in demand. A country that can attract and retain such people may be at advantage in an economy where innovation and new firms are necessary to success. There are indications that the United States was able to sustain rapid growth in the ICT(Information and Communication Technology) sector, particularly in the software segment where human capital is the key input, by tapping into international sources of skilled workers. Immigration may therefore be one of these factors that have enabled the US boom to continue, as it filled some of the most urgent skill needs. The United States attracted skilled workers to the country and US firms went overseas to access the required skills.
OECD. A New Economy? The Changing Role of Innovation and Information Technology in Growth. 2000.
Legrain, Philippe. Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 2006.
Gromov, Gregory. NetValley: Silicon Valley History.