Face it: The outside world is just not that into us anymore. Yes, Silicon Valley was a pop-culture icon back when the Nasdaq was peaking...
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Face it: The outside world is just not that into us anymore.
Yes, Silicon Valley was a pop-culture icon back when the Nasdaq was peaking and the good balsamic was $1,500 a bottle at Draeger’s. And like any icon, everybody wanted a piece.
“There was Silicon Prairie, Silicon Forest, Silicon Glen, Silicon Alley, Silicon Everything,” says Andrew Levine, president of DCI, a New York marketing company that helps regions sell themselves.
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Levine could have gone on: Silicon Dominion, Silicon Gulch, Silicon Mesa. Or Silicon Swamp, which is what this place is beginning to feel like.
At the peak of silicon envy, 51 Silicon-something labels were in use around the world, says the Siliconia Web site (www.tbtf.com/siliconia.html).
“I think communities and states that were pushing these silicon titles,” Levine says, “have sort of, casually, dropped them.”
Sort of? Think hot potato. Nuclear waste. Ten-foot pole and not touching.
“The mystique of Silicon Valley, as if it’s some magical place where we are creating exciting new things that are changing the world? I’m not so sure they feel that way,” says Howard Combs, a marketing professor at San Jose State University.
The drop in the Nasdaq is nothing compared with the dive our psychic index has taken. We used to be somebody. Top of the world. We were being noticed and it felt good.
Now we’re old news. The geographic equivalent of the leisure suit. Nasdaq 5,048? Try 2,070.61.
What changed? Everything.
At the peak, it seemed there was a Google a week. There were parties with vodka poured through ice sculptures. Adoring fans were reading books of tech success, like “The Nudist on the Late Shift.”
But now we know the nudist should have kept his pants on.
Most of all, of course, the world changed. India and China have become tech powers of their own, offering cheap labor and the kind of entrepreneurial zeal that once propelled Silicon Valley.
“Silicon Valley was something fairly temporary,” Combs says. “It was a time when the economy was booming and there were miracle stories from people who were making infinite amounts of money.”
Those stories aren’t coming out anymore. And the one-time silicon wannabes have decided Silicon Valley is so over.
Listen to the word from the former Silicon Dominion, now called Virginia.
“I haven’t heard anybody refer to it in print, or verbally, or orally, as Silicon Dominion in years,” says Gerald Gordon, president of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. “It’s definitely out of vogue.”
Or listen to the folks in Sioux Falls, S.D., once Silicon Prairie. Well, listen once you get past the secretary. (“Did you say you were from San Antonio?” Me: “Uh, no, San Jose.”)
“We keep more abreast of what’s going on in the Research Triangle than we do in Silicon Valley,” says Dan Scott, of the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.
Scott never liked the Silicon Prairie label, which he attributes to Ted Waitt, founder of Gateway. Waitt also is known for moving Gateway’s headquarters to California, killing South Dakota jobs in the process, Scott says.
“I’d like to swing him around by his ponytail,” he says.
Ponytails aside, how does the former Silicon Prairie view Silicon Valley these days?
Maybe we can live with being kicked around by Sioux Falls. (Probably easier than having to live in Sioux Falls.) But it hurts to be dissed at home.
San Jose State still crows about Silicon Valley on its Web site. But Professor Combs has his doubts.
“Attaching the term to the marketing of the university, we’ve become hesitant now to do that,” he says. “It doesn’t sell much or say much about who we are or really impress people like it once did.”
Impress people? Remember when we acted like we couldn’t care less?
“If anybody needs a rebranding at this point, frankly, it’s Silicon Valley,” says Gordon of the Fairfax County development authority.
“The Fairfax County of California.”
Mike Cassidy is a columnist at the San Jose Mercury News.