A quest to create a vibrant tech startup scene in a traditional, conservative, hard-core rust belt town.
– By Blake Glenn
Ok. Let’s see if I can get my head around this. There’s:
- Silicon Prairie
- Silicon Forest
- Silicon Alley
- Silicon Beach
And there’s also:
- Silicon Hill
- Silicon Mountain
- Silicon Slopes
- The New Silicon Valley (Several in contention)
And there are many more still, one of which is close to my heart … Silicon Rust Belt. Being a baby of the rust belt I find this one especially intriguing. I don’t think it’s gained quite the traction or panache of some of the other infamous Silicon brand imitators yet. And it might be a bit of an oxymoron too. After all, does silicon actually rust? Don’t know.
If you combine Silicon Mountain and Silicon Slopes you create Silicon Mountain Slopes. Such a combination would clear the muddied field a little and make for a potentially powerful tech monstrosity. And I bet the view and the skiing would be absolutely fabulous.
And Silicon Beach has at least two contenders – Los Angeles and Miami. I expect soon there’ll be a war between these two international meccas over the use of the term. And this would be appropriate. You see Miami is sort of the East Coast version of LA. They share some key attributes.
They’re both sunny, diverse in population (though Miami is much smaller), right on the water, a favorite site for film and TV shoots, and full of celebrities. LA has Kobe. Miami has LeBron. Perhaps to further distinguish its own unique Silicon identity, Miami could modify the tagline just a bit to … Silicon South Beach.
But I digress. I find this “Silicon Valley imitator” phenomenon to be quite odd and yet fascinating. It’s kind of amazing really. Several cities or regions around the country have repeated the same recipe. Simply insert the word Silicon as your first word in a phrase, follow it with one to three additional descriptors (mountain, alley, beach, or Mountain Beach Alley … etc.), and voila … you have instant branding as an emerging mega-hub of tech innovation!
And it’s not just national. This is a truly global phenomenon. There exist cities/regions on every continent that are quickly taking to the Silicon Something brand identity movement.
Even some regions that have yet to take up a prominent Silicon nickname can still get in the game by referring to themselves as “The Silicon Valley of”. As in the Silicon Valley of:
- Drones (or unmanned aireal vehicles – uh, UAVs)
- Digital media
- Clean energy tech
- Robots capable of winning Jeopardy
- Health tech
- Massive male genital growth enhancement technology
It’s branding not as the next Silicon Valley per se. But as THE Silicon Valley of a specific much smaller niche.
Genius! I mean REAL DAMNED GENIUS!!!
I really do see why so many regions want to position themselves as the next, newest, best-est emerging tech center of something. They’re frantic to establish an identity in the ever expanding world of regional tech hubs. But (and this is my inability to delineate higher thought processes) I just can’t bring myself to see how the repeated steal…, uh I mean borrowing, of one distinctive word will distinguish one region from another … or from the reigning tech king itself – THE Silicon Valley.
Now I don’t want to be the wet blanket on this national tech mecca party. I want to be a believer. I do. But you see, off the top of my head I can list some potential major problems with this approach.
1. First, referring to yourself as Silicon anything immediately draws comparisons with the original Silicon King.
With very few exceptions (Boston, LA, Seattle, NY City … maybe) most of these cities/regions have small, even miniscule, amounts of angel funding, VC, available startup-ready tech talent, and wealth creation produced or in the pipeline in comparison to Silicon Valley. One measure of where a region is is how many billion dollar tech startup cash outs the region has produced in the last 15 years. How about cash outs of $100 million plus? Another measure is the number of patents produced and turned into viable ventures.
2. Secondly, it’s just not very original, unique, or frankly … INNOVATIVE.
In my most humble opinion, any region that tags the Silicon moniker as part of its branding statement is attempting to be viewed as an area that’s seen as innovative. But, just playing Devil’s advocate here, what’s less innovative than simply stapling Silicon onto the front end of your tag line? And now-a-days, “innovation” has been used so much it’s been almost reduced to a laughable cliche. So how about we band together to create an innovative new term to replace it.
3. Thirdly, I’ll phrase this as a simple question. Is silicon really at the heart of the products your region produces?
Yes, most tech products do have some form of silicon in them because of the electronic chips that comprise the delicate intestinal tract of those products. And of course apps, games, and other software run on silicon-based products.
However … silicon isn’t usually the core product produced. And even if it is, see number 1 above.
But here are a few branding suggestions that I really think will mitigate the Silicon Valley comparisons, create a unique brand identity, and really help your region to stand out from all the other Silicon imitators.
- The Drone Belt, uh I mean The UAV Belt
- Digital Media Mountain
- Batmobile Alley
- PC Prairie
- Software Slopes
- Clean Energy Canyon
- Health Tech Highway
- Big Data Boulevard
I know. Genius right!
You’re very welcome. No problemo.
Over the next few weeks I think it will be interesting to take a closer look at some of the Silicon Valley imitators and learn a little more about them. In order to include the global factor in this phenomenon I’ll also look at some outside-the-U.S. locations too.
And let me know what you think about the growing Silicon imitation branding phenomenon.
Blake Glenn shares his looney perspectives, stories, and mis-adventures in The Looney Executive blog. He has interviewed hundreds (or at least tens) of people via The Looney Executive Podcasts and former TV show. He’s the founder of a tech group called IgniteTech, and claims to be a direct descendant of the original Looney Executive – Because there must be SOME explanation … right?).
If you dare, he can be reached the old school way … blake@LooneyExecutive.com
P.S. – If you’re really interested in growing the tech startup scene in SW Ohio, you’ll want to join the IgniteTech Meetup Group.
Join the group. Come out to our events. Bring your energy and ideas.
Build your connections.
Join us on this adventure. And help us to create a great story!