Silicon Valley, an area located outside the Bay area of California, has been synonymous with technology and innovation since the nineties. During this time this area has had its ups and downs, plenty of startup success stories as well as major expansions. How has it impacted the area, the people and the software industry? Apparently quite a bit, as we are about to learn… Here are 15 interesting facts about Silicon Valley area, companies and those live there.
Once an area for farming with few residents, it was an earthquake and a school named Stanford University that would begin brining technological research to the area. Fred Terman was a member of the Stanford faculty and is known as the father of Silicon Valley due to his support and guidance of Bill Hewlett and David Packard, a duo he encouraged to start their own company. Transistors were also being developed and since silicon was widely available, that was used to create the transistors, hence the “silicon” part of Silicon Valley, a term used in 1985 when Don C. Hoefler published a number of articles on the area. It stuck, and as companies flocked to the area to innovate it became a name that represents opportunity and innovation.
We’ve got some history, geography and sex in stair wells. Say what! That’s right, it’s not all coding and ping pong inside Silicon Valley. These techies need to get it on just like everyone else. Don’t fret, we also have robots and drugs because, let’s face it, it’s pretty much the peanut butter and jelly of Silicon Valley. Here are 15 things you probably don’t know about Silicon Valley.
15. Started By HP; Fueled By Internet Explosion
David Packard and William Hewlett are said to have been the first to set up shop in Silicon Valley, forming HP and setting a precedent for technology companies, specifically startup companies to operate in Silicon Valley.
However, it was the nineties and specifically the internet that really kick started this area as a space for new startups. With its location near Stanford and cheaper (at the time) rent, Silicon Valley was close enough to San Francisco to pull talent, but far enough away to not be priced out for cost conscious startups. Most of the startups from the nineties that settled here no longer exist, dying off when the dot-com bubble burst, but some still do – well known companies such as eBay, Google and Netflix got their starts during this time. Other companies planted seeds for future companies to learn, utilize their technology and recruit talent that was plentiful after the dot-com bubble burst.
14. Once Nicknamed the Valley of Death
In 1985, prior to the Internet, Silicon Valley (led by HP at the time) was given the nickname Valley of Death due to panic over the personal computer replacing jobs. Now, we know that although computers can automate, they still require someone to operate and provide more efficiency versus job replacement. However, at the time a lot of people were freaking out over these “machines” and how human interaction would no longer be needed.
In addition to this fun fact, Silicon Valley locals, especially those that have been around for a while, love to discuss pop culture history. The Warlocks, the name of the band that would later become The Grateful Dead, played their first gig at a pizza joint in Menlo Park. The movie One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest was based on a hospital also located in Menlo Park. Also, the movie Dangerous Minds has Silicon Valley roots as this movie was based on Carlmont High located in Belmont.
13. Silicon Valley is Made Up of 30 Cities and 5 Universities
A vast area makes up Silicon Valley; in fact it’s about 30 cities that include Cupertino, Los Gatos, Mountain View, San Jose, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and many others. Geographically it stretches from San Francisco to the tip of San Jose, expanding east more each day. Where Silicon Valley officially starts and ends is now more philosophical than geographical. There is an epicenter where most companies are, but others continue to move “near”, expanding the scope of what is referred to Silicon Valley.
In addition to the cities and towns it’s the universities that produce the talent for many of these startups. Stanford University, the Harvard University of the West is well known and a destination for many that want to get into engineering. In addition to Stanford this region also has Northwestern Polytechnic University, Carnegie Mellon University, San Jose State University and Santa Clara University, all very much full of eager entrepreneurs with startup plans of their own. Essentially, without Stanford there is no Silicon Valley as we know it today, and given the amount of jobs created in the area I would not be surprised to see more colleges and universities pop up in the near future.
12. Home to the Largest Number of Millionaires
Innovation and technology, especially new innovation and technology, bring two things: risk and investment. The risk is whether your company can provide a product or service that someone wants to mass produce. Most startups are incubators funded by Venture Capitalists who invest their money hoping to make a lot more money. This is the investment side of it. Also the creators of the software or service often own shares of the company stock, so if the company is purchased or eventually is big enough to go public on the stock market, there is a lot of money coming in. This high risk versus high return is why there are so many millionaires in Silicon Valley. In fact, there are more millionaires in Silicon Valley than any area in the U.S.
The town of Atherton, located within the Silicon Valley region, is the most expensive zip code and home to many millionaires as well as some billionaires. Apparently the town has only one restaurant so if you don’t like sushi you are likely ordering in often.
11. No Bars Near Stanford University
So what does everyone do for fun in Silicon Valley? Well, they mostly work, because that’s fun, right? They also play a lot of ping pong if you really believe that. I believe there are ping pong tables in the offices, but I don’t believe anyone ever actually plays. Too much work to do! Typically, if you are in an area with a major college you head there to go out and unwind, but that doesn’t happen near Stanford University. Stanford was a dry city up until the year 1971. This was due to the strict guidelines put in place by the founder, Leland Stanford.
A college town without a string of bars to go get drunk and hook up with others for regrettable one-night stands? No, someone always finds a way and that doesn’t mean there aren’t some popular bars. There are spots such as Oasis and Dutch Goose, but you will have to travel to the prohibition border where these classic bars set up shop many years ago to serve those thirsty geniuses.
10. East Palo Alto Has Quite a Reputation
Not every area of Silicon Valley is an envious place to live. East Palo Alto has quite a reputation that goes back to the nineties when it had the highest murder rate in the country. Really makes me question two things. First, why here? And second, so Detroit took a year off? Anyway, obviously it’s not this way now, but it’s also not as nice as some other places and rent is cheaper. There is also an IKEA here because, well cheaper rent.
If I was starting a city there is no way I would put “East” in the name. Look at East L.A. and East New York, not exactly good reputations. I’ve got an idea for East Palo Alto. Get Mark Zuckerberg to fund a Christmas Album and have “Born In East Palo Alto” be one of the tracks. What does everyone think? Good idea? No, nothing, is this thing on?
9. No Smog of Fog in Silicon Valley
When discussing California, what cities jump in your head? Probably Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, right? Probably not Oakland and definitely not Sacramento (hey look at us, we’re the capital). Anyway these cities (L.A. and San Francisco) have smog and fog issues. You don’t have any of this in San Jose or the Silicon Valley. You don’t have the traffic issues… Oh wait, yeah, the traffic is a nightmare here as well. If you don’t like sitting in a highway parking lot, avoid California.
Counterpoint: What Silicon Valley doesn’t have is the ocean and let’s face it, the Pacific Ocean is what makes California one of the greatest places to live. In summary, if you are looking to live in Silicon Valley you better really want to work in technology because you are not getting the full California experience. Unless you are rich of course, because then you can make anything work. Best to just be rich!
8. Peter Thiel: Hero or Villain?
Trump supporter Peter Thiel is one of the smartest business men in Silicon Valley. Whatever he invests in seems to be the right move, a move that typically ends up making him a lot of money. He did it with Paypal and Facebook, taking stake when they were small and then selling once they got big. He also has his money invested in many other companies that will probably to make him an even richer man in the future. Thiel has set the bar high for many investors that come to Silicon Valley looking to become a billionaire.
Thiel is also a gay man that was “outed” by Gawker. He didn’t take well to this and decided to seek revenge by bankrolling lawsuits against the website until they eventually went bankrupt. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the 2016 Hulk Hogan lawsuit. Love him or hate him, Thiel is a major player that has really created a template for success in Silicon Valley.
7. Companies That Call Silicon Valley Home
In America so many major companies have started or operate in Silicon Valley it’s really a list of who’s who in the technology space. Here is just a sample of major players you’ve heard of, and yes, they are all from Silicon Valley: Google Inc., Hewlett-Packard Company, Intel Corporation, Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., Adobe Systems, eBay Inc., Nvidia, Symantec Corporation, Varian Associates, Yahoo! Inc., Cisco Systems, LinkedIn Corporation, Mozilla Foundation, Xerox PARC, Netflix Inc., AOL Inc., Sun Microsystems, TiVo Inc. and VMware Inc.
Any questions (I’ll let you catch your breath)? That’s a serious list of heavy hitters and what’s interesting is how some complement others. There are hardware companies, social networks, routers, networking, design, graphics, and search engine companies all located in the same area. It makes sense if you are looking to create something innovative to be near some of these other companies to form partnerships or maybe even pull talent.
6. Some Software Engineers Live In Vans
Real estate is ridiculous and sure, there are a lot of people making money, but there are also a lot of entry level tech workers and engineers that just can’t afford the rent. They deal with it by getting roommates (sometimes several), using corporate housing or other means such as living in a van. This is a real situation that occurs in Silicon Valley. Apparently the biggest issue is where to park the van. First rule of living in a van: Don’t park the van in the company parking lot. The second rule: Don’t park the van in the company parking lot. Third: Don’t – well you get the picture…
Some of the rumored stories include a Google engineer who lived in a truck in the company’s parking lot (hey, what’s the first rule?) as well as a Tesla employee who saved so much money he was able to pay off all of his school loans in five months.
5. Some Tech Workers Have Sex At The Office
Tech companies try to create an ultra-casual environment where stress is secondary, but let’s face it, if you are a startup it’s all about stress, especially for the engineers and employees involved in the day to day. If you are spending all your time in this environment you are going to need to blow off steam one way or another. One company had to put out an email reminding employees they are not allowed to have sex in the stairwells. Apparently it also said no smoking, eating or drinking, but it’s pretty clear why there needed to be a note.
How did they know? Well there were used condoms left in the stairwell. Talking about not having much time in between coding assignments! Thank God there was even time to use a condom! At this moment I’d like to point out that the email made no mention of workspaces or offices, so maybe that’s allowed? There really is only one way to find out. Give it a try and see if there’s a follow up email the next day. It’s not like you will be fired – it’s hard to find good talent.
4. Robots! Robots! Robots!
It’s true; there are a lot of robots roaming around in Silicon Valley (and I’m not talking about the engineers). Stay at a hotel in the area and it’s not strange to have your water delivered to your room by a robot. So if you like automation you are going to really love this concept and if you are the type of guest that always wants to complain to a human being, you are out of luck. Welcome to Silicon Valley, bitch!
The most popular robot, the K5 security robot, was created by a company named Knightscope. This particular robot can be seen all over the Silicon Valley area; at malls, corporate offices and even company data centers. It uses sensors and cameras to collect data, process and notify human cops if there is trouble. All of this is obviously done at a fraction of the cost of having actual security guards. Welcome to the Valley of Death!
3. Matchmaking is a Lucrative Business
If you aren’t one of the lucky ones getting some in the stairwell you may have to look elsewhere to find love, or satisfaction. In Silicon Valley, according to Pew Research Center, there are 140 single men versus 100 single women in San Jose. That’s not good odds for guys looking to find their mate, especially if you don’t want to try and find someone in your office (or stairwell).
There are many matchmaking services in the region. Some are standard matchmaking, but others cater to the wealthy millionaires looking to find their mate, or at least someone to date. One of these matchmaking services named Linx, charges $50,000 for 11 matches a year. That’s good cash if you can get it. Of course, you better be good at what you do given the odds. The way I see it, why not fly girls in from other areas to “assist” with the operation? Wait, what exactly am I proposing here? Yeah, I’m really not cut out for this business.
2. Mobile Dentistry Is Common Here
Innovation isn’t just about software; it’s about finding a more efficient way to operate. In Silicon Valley there is a truck that makes regular stops to companies such as Airbnb and Google to service their employees’ dental needs. These trucks provide full cleaning as well as X-rays. My only initial concern is that robots will be performing the services. Actually, that may be better if your dentist experiences are anything like mine. It’s a benefit to the employees because it’s convenient and a benefit to the company because they are getting more work out of their employees. It’s a win/win for both sides if you believe more work is a good thing…
Right away my mind wanders to what else could be delivered via truck. Maybe matchmakers could just pull up for the employees to elicit their services. How about laundry? What about medication or pharmaceutical needs? You know what, what about drugs? No, that’s going too far…
1. Mobile Weed Is Common Here
So you may not be near the ocean, but you are still technically in California and that means marijuana is available. Silicon Valley takes it a step further, making delivery of weed mobile, right to your desk. I’ve worked in places where the arrival of the taco truck is a big deal so I can’t imagine what this must be like. Do you think the weed truck shows up and is then followed by the taco truck? That would be absolute nirvana.
Up until recently you needed a prescription from your physician. Good news is there’s an app for that! There are startup companies that let you video-conference with a physician who will approve your prescription. You can then order (via an app) you pot needs and wait patiently for the weed truck to arrive. After that, hope a taco truck arrives soon… Man, I’m not sure if this is what they meant, but the Beverly Hillbillies were right: California really is the place to be…