In Why Facebook went west, Scott Kirsner suggests that Facebook‘s decision to relocate to Silicon Valley “either highlights Boston’s deficiencies as a greenhouse for a new generation of Web start-ups, or illustrates the incredible magnetism of Silicon Valley – or a bit of both.”
Short answer: It’s the magnetism of Silicon Valley, period.
True, if Battery Ventures or some other Boston-area VC had become the primary investor in Facebook, perhaps Facebook would have stayed. But good VCs everywhere pass up good opportunities every day. To ascribe those decisions to regional “deficiencies” is a stretch that verges on a smear.
What if Battery had invested in Facebook and the company had moved anyway? Would this say anything bad about Boston? No. It would confirm what’s good about Silicon Valley. If you’re a fast-growing tech company looking for the maximum quantity of high-quality local talent, there isn’t much choice. Silicon Valley is the place.
Back in 1984 I was a principal in a high-tech advertising agency in Raleigh, North Carolina. We had what was clearly the top high-tech agency in the state at that time. But one client said “Y’know boys, there’s more action on one street in Sunnyvale than there is in all of North Carolina”. We went and looked. He was right. We opened an office in Palo Alto, did very well there and within a year closed the North Carolina office.
That decision had nothing to do with the obvious advantages of our North Carolina location. But the business advantages to the Silicon Valley move were beyond clear. I suspect they were for Facebook too.
And that’s not to say Boston doesn’t have advantages of its own. Or else I wouldn’t have just moved here from California.