I went to Silicon Valley in 1979 the same way a country singer goes to Nashville or an actor goes to Hollywood. Really. I absolutely felt that way. I was broke after a couple of months, and did the equivalent of waiting tables in NY, contract programming for National Semiconductor. I met people in coffee shops and diners, and worked the big tech companies as if they were accounts. Made a deal. Lived from hand to mouth until I struck it big, and when I left, I had lots of money in the bank.
Today, Silicon Valley has a more formal system welcoming young folk. And that's smart, and other places should do it too, but here's the twist. In addition to giving a warm welcome to hotshot programmers and marketers, have city-based "in residence" programs, the way universities and venture firms do. Make it easy for people who are accomplished in tech to set up house in your city for a few months at a time.
In other words people can be coral reefs too.
I had this thought recently relating to my longtime friend Marc Canter. I would love to have him around in NYC for a few months, maybe every year. But he's too big to sleep on my couch, both in spirit and physical size. We need to put him up somewhere in the city, and let's set up little parties for young startups with Marc, there are so many of them. I want Marc to advise me on user interfaces I'm working on. But I could never use all of his time. He would be a tremendous asset to a place like New York. But why should have to pay $400 a night to stay in one of our hotels? That's a big barrier, because the costs are so much higher today than they were 30 years ago.
This is an idea any of our mayoral candidates are welcome to, or a borough president for that matter. Does Queens want to be the next Silicon Valley? Maybe it could happen.