Escape from Silicon Valley

I am flying over North Carolina on final approach to Charlotte, and I am about to die. I have been experiencing a clenching, sweat-inducing discomfort in my chest all morning, an event that was unusual enough to prompt me to buy some Bayer at San Jose airport prior to my departure, but not so dire as to cause me to head directly to an emergency room like any rational human who believes they’re having a heart attack. And now here I am cruising at 35,000 feet trying desperately not to freak out while eying the oxygen and resuscitation equipment in the overhead compartment and wondering if the flight attendant remembers her CPR training. Counting down the minutes until we land and I can head to a hospital, it occurs to me that the Silicon Valley lifestyle might be having an adverse effect on my health.

Thus began my plot to escape Silicon Valley.

“Lifestyle” is an odd way to describe the act of living in Silicon Valley. The term seems leisurely, carefree, and luxurious – far too relaxed to describe the experience. The starry-eyed media coverage breezes over the harsh truth of real life in Silicon Valley in its bid to tell the storybook fable of a nobody nerd who revolutionized the world and got rich along the way. It’s the geek equivalent of Jewel’s “I was a struggling artist living in my car” story, provided you replace “artist” with “PHP programmer”, “car” with “Stanford dorm room”, and “struggling” with “well-fed and annoyingly upbeat”.

Oh, and it’s complete bullshit.

I’m here because Rob Lewis approached me to write for TechVibes for a simple reason: to bring some perspective. I’ve spent the past four years in Silicon Valley, and I’ve learned a lot along the way – lessons I hope to share with you over the coming weeks. My goal is to convince you that we have more than enough opportunities in Vancouver (and Canada as a whole) to build great technology without packing up a U-Haul and moving to Santa Clara County – and to kick you off your lazy asses to make it happen. I won’t lie to you and tell you we can be “the next Silicon Valley”, because we can’t – there will never be another Silicon Valley, and anyone who pitches you with that line is selling something, high on something, or seeking re-election.

Instead, I’ll promise you that we can be something better: a place where we build great companies, and do it on our own terms. But it’s gonna take some work – are you ready?