Expertise Knows No Bounds

I opened an email this morning that started like this:

I read your blog and believe that you have a firm grasp
on web trends – especially for someone on the east coast.

That’s as far as I got. I replied with incredulity and moved on.

I am the first to admit that Silicon Valley has the largest concentration of web entrepreneurs, web developers, and web financiers of anywhere in the world. It is mecca when it comes to all things web.

But please do not assume that the rest of the world, including the east coast, has a shortage of people who understand exactly where the web is going and what to do with it.

UPDATE: Just got back to a computer. As I posted in the comments earlier, I found out several hours after I wrote this post that the person who sent me the email is in fact from NYC. Ugh. I’ll be eating crow for years. I feel badly. But I still stand by my central point that expertise in web and technology knows no bounds.

UPDATE #2: I am enjoying the comments of my friends on the west coast. There are some good ones in there!

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Berislav Lopac

    I wonder what would they say about someone in Croatia…

    1. fredwilson

      Show me your plan!

  2. Steven Kane

    its been my experience that the folks who most energetically proclaim the future is distributed and decentralized are usually also the most manic and vehement about the utter necessity of being located in just the one place.paperless office, anyone?

  3. Jon Seeber

    You have to love the irony. Someone claiming that the Web is concentrated geographically, or in ANY fashion for that matter, might just be a little light on understanding what the web really is, and why it’s so powerful.

  4. Bruce Barber

    Isn’t this how that trouble with Tupac got started?

    1. fredwilson

      Fortunatley in tech spats, we use words not guns

      1. Bruce Barber

        …as it should be…

  5. Phin

    The irony is rich. I think your e-mailer forgot what the first two W’s are for in http://www.Also, how creative can a meeting be without good bagels and where can you get a decent bagel on the West Coast?

  6. ErikSchwartz

    I’ve been in the bay area, and I’ve been out of the bay area.If your customers are centralized in the bay area, then there’s a slight advantage to being in the bay area. If your customers are not in the bay area, then being in the bay area scene is as much of a distraction as a benefit.There’s a reason most of the major consumer products companies have offices in Bentonville Arkansas.

  7. RockyTopMBA

    Bravo, Fred.

  8. Elia Freedman

    If you think you have it bad, try being their neighbor. Those of us in Oregon are backwater yokels who do nothing but ski all day and live in cheap housing, at least according to Bay area folks.

  9. Hank Williams

    Yeah thats pretty f’ing obnoxious. It is true, that there is more web smarts in SV than other places. But what this guy demonstrated is there are idiots *everywhere*.

  10. Erik Peterson

    Considering that most knowledge about “web trends” is obtained through the Internet, it makes *no* difference where someone is. Only how much they read.That said, I’m living in Atlanta and moving to Palo Alto next month. There’s a reason for that.

  11. Christoph Jaggi

    Fortunately the web was not invented in the Silicon Valley and the first website ever didn’t even have a .com, .org extension. CERN, where the web was born, has its website at…..

  12. Alex Mather

    Fred, you’re pretty fly…for a white guy.

  13. Harry DeMott

    As someone who has invested in VC companies from NYC (gasp!) and as almost a second job (double gasp!!! I work at a hedge fund) I am constantly amazed at the insularity that exists in the Valley. Since almost all investors bring a point of view to an investment based largely on their own personal, it is little surprise that those investors that spend the vast majority of their professional life within a 30 mile radius of the Stamford campus would have an extremely similar view of the world – and a very simliar experience set. It’s not that we have a lack of understanding of things here on the Right Coast – it’s just that the concentration of people focused on the web within the Valley is far higher than the concentration of people elsewhere – the real question I always have is whether that concentration is really focused on what the customers want or what they think is cool.

  14. sweller

    Agreed. The West Coast tends to be very hubristic about their role in technology and the web.

    1. janice

      extra points for using the word “hubristic”.

  15. issackelly

    As a web entrepreneur who has firmly made a decision _not_ to be in the west side scene, I get a little tired of this myself. California’s a great place and all, certainly a great place to live, (and a place I might end up someday if there is just something I _can’t_ pass up, but this attitude of ‘real business is done out here’ has to stop. I’d hate for this to be a ‘one day, you’ll see’ type post, so with that, Fred, you are my evidence.

  16. Martin Edic

    As an East Coaster who follows this stuff I am continually astounded at the crap that passes as start-ups on the other coast, vis a vis the daily Techcrunch and VentureBeat fodder. Goofy concepts, terrible brands, no monetization strategy yet they raise money and get coverage.I’d like to see a breakout of successful exits by geolocation- I doubt there’s a strong corollary by coast. Union Square seems to be doing OK…

    1. fredwilson

      Well this is embarassing.It turns out the person who wrote the email is from nyc!I stick by the point I was making even though the anchor has no weight!Fred

      1. Dan

        Oh dear – perhaps it’s also a little arrogant to fire off a reply without reading the whole message…Hold on then, now we’re removing the ‘evidence’ behind your view, but sticking with the point? So you’re complaining that west coast people have invented a certain stereotype of an east coaster – based on, er, err… a west-coast stereotype that you’ve just made up!I’m willing to believe you’ve seen that attitude before, however.

        1. fredwilson

          DanTo be clear, I did go back and read the entire email before I wrote my postThere was nothing in it to indicate where he was fromWhen I got a reply from him later this morning with that info, I posted my reply explaining the truthFred

      2. JayR

        Oh, dear. A self-hating New Yorker.

      3. Sanjath

        Could you please update your post to at least say ‘stereotyping’ instead of ‘arrogance’. Looking at the comments below, I dont see anyone has noticed that it is not coming from “west coast”. There are snobs every where, so I dont think you can dismiss the point you are making but at least you could clarify in your post about the ‘trigger’ for your post. By nature we tend to stereotype people from some region e.g: finance with NY, Boston Brahmin etc. So, it is not as much an issue as it is made out to be.

        1. fredwilson

          I changed the title and added an update to the postI feel badly

  17. Steven Kane

    It goes without saying that Silicon valley is one of the most fertile breeding grounds for innovation in the world and in the history of humankind. (Whew.)But one could argue almost none of the web/new media cornerstone concepts was birthed in the Valley:Search———-Archie (McGill Univ, Montreal, Quebec, Canada)WebCrawler (Univ of Washington, Seattle, WA)Lycos (Carnegie Mellon Univ, Pittsburgh, PA)Alta Vista (Maynard, MA – Digital Equipment Corp.)Social Networking/Blogging/Personal Publishing—————————————————————–GeoCities (L.A.)Tripod (Williamstown, MA)Casual Gaming——————— (NYC) (Boston) (Phoenix, AZ)Chat/Instant Messaging/Email/Webmail—————————————————–Email (BBN. Cambridge, MA)ICQ (Israel)Hotmail (The Netherlands)Browser———–Mosaic (Univ. of Illinois)Spyglass (Illinois)Lynx (Univ. of Kansas)HTML——–W3 Project (Geneva, Switzerland)W3C (MIT, Cambridge, MA)TCP/IP———ARPANET (BBN, Cambridge, MA)So maybe all that Valley hubris is just overcompensation for inferiority complex?:)

    1. fredwilson

      The first social networking company (and author of the most significant patent in the space) was six degrees in nyc in the late 90sFred

      1. Steven Kane

        my bad. my sincere apologies to the six degress folks, remember them well.also, i forgot these categories:consumer web——————-AOL (Vienna, VA)Prodigy (Fair Lawn, NJ)CompuServe (Columbus, OH)consumer e-commerce—————————— (Seattle, WA)PriceLinee-commerce platform—————————-Art Technology Group (Boston)Open Market (Boston)ad networks/agencies——————————Yoyodyne (NYC)Modem Media (Norwalk, CT)

    2. Roman

      Funny how in Search you failed to include Google and Yahoo!In Social networking you ignored Facebook and myspace (not in the valley, but still west coast)in blogging you ignored automatic and 6 apartSeems like you manage to ignore all of the market leader…and funniest of them all was Mosaic–Andreesen left Illinois to come to the Valley, and started Netscape with Jim Clark, a former Stanford professor, and the company was funded by KP… west coast, west coast, and west coast again…No one is saying that there aren’t good companies elsewhere–there are good companies everywhere. But let’s not get it twisted, many more successful companies (especially market leaders) come out of the Valley that any other region, it’s a fact and it’s not a big deal.

      1. Cam MacRae

        Massachusetts is in the west?

      2. Steven Kane

        hi romanmy point wasn’t that great companies aren’t born in Silicon Valley. Duh! I was just trying to make a nebulous joke about where the core concepts of the web were born. speaking of which, Google is mighty but it is definitely search 2.0, maybe 3.0. And Yahoo definitely did invent a cornerstone concept (indexing, not search) but i didnt include them because they *are* in the Valley. And yes yes yes of course about Andreesen and Clark and Netscape and KP. But Netscape didn’t invent the browser. They commercialized it (God bless ’em!)

        1. John Underwood

          I think we can accept as fact that great innovation is often born outside the Valley.So perhaps the better questions are:- Why does great innovation so often end up migrating to the Valley (start-ups and entrepreneurs move)?- Is great innovation more likely to be successful (usage, monetization, etc) by Valley or Bay Area or West Coast companies?Not just theoretical for me: I’m a founder of a start-up in the Washington DC area with engineers in Argentina.

  18. JohnofScribbleSheet

    If your working on a startup its probably best to be in the valley, however it doesn’t mean you cannot understand them from anywhere else in the world

  19. dave

    Heh. They say the same thing about Berkeley. :-)Also age. At a blogging conference, an open discussion, a young person asked me how much a guy my age could really understand about blogs.

    1. dshaw


    2. RacerRick

      That’s really quite funny. How much would Dave Winer know about blogs.That’s like in one of the packer rookie RBs in the 1980s asked coach Forest Gregg what he knew anything about football. “Ever play the game coach?”

  20. ggigi

    Yes, of course you know ‘exactly’ where the web is going.

    1. rjmoriarty

      It’s going coast-to-coast on a road trip! o/

  21. Mike Orren

    Hey — maybe they were from the Central Time Zone!

  22. Eric Rice

    Valley native, here. With that said, could everyone stop thinking cute startups in San Francisco are part of ‘Silicon Valley’? Twitter is NOT the Valley. Google, Apple, HP, etc, is the Valley.Tech equaling ‘The Valley’ is probably the same vibe as showbiz equaling ‘Hollywood’.

  23. Brian Breslin

    Do you think being outside the echochamber helps? I think you probably would come up with more distinctive ideas outside the valley. thinking outside the box. although being in the valley has a myriad of advantages (recruitment, access to capital, networking, and getting info faster)

    1. Brent Castle

      I’d say its a bit like Warren Buffet staying out of New York and “sheltered” in Nebraska.

  24. howardlindzon

    at least i got you to open one of emails now.

  25. Charlie Crystle

    There’s one thing that’s true though: EAST COAST deal terms are consistently more onerous than West Coast deal terms, and valuations are higher on the West Coast.(source: ventureone)

    1. JayR

      Well, the price of housing is higher in the Valley, so there’s some symmetry there.

      1. charlie crystle

        doesn’t really matter if you have distributed teams, or aren’t in the valley but raise from there. we just did πŸ™‚

  26. PeterOz

    A good example of this arrogance is following post from Robert Scoble who was amazed that people used Google and Wifi outside of Silicon Valley

    1. Scobleizer

      Heh, I read this whole post while sitting in a conference in Geneva, Switzerland. They have Wifi here too! πŸ™‚

  27. John Furrier

    Fred,I know that you visit alot but I was wondering if you lived here in Silcon Valley? I’ve lived in palo alto since 1999 before that east coast massachusetts and new jersey (ny metro). I’ve started companies on both coasts. There is a big difference agreed. Just because there is a culture here that is much different than the east but that comment doensn’t justify you to globalize Silicon Valley.I’ve found that the SV attitude is similar to that of New Yorkers on Wall Street. New Yorkers are much more direct ‘in your face’ and SV is more ‘cloak and dagger’.I think that it’s a style difference. That being said geography really isn’t becoming a factor in terms of who is in the know or has a clue.Look at it this way you have one more person (that guy) who know you have a clue. πŸ™‚

  28. michael arrington

    Fred, Great post. You are such a good blogger, especially for someone outside of Silicon Valley.:-)

  29. Rex Hammock

    This debate will loop for the rest of time, I suppose. Isn’t the whole point of some of this technology to make place less a factor in collaboration. That said, having the finance, legal and technical skills (and mindset) concentrated in one location does make doing “the business” of new media easier. I would argue, however, the understanding of an “audience” or and industry served is better found where the audience is. I’m sure when Sam Walton started Wal-mart, no expert alive would have agreed that Bentonville, Ark. was the ideal location to startup up the worlds largest retail operation.

  30. jer979

    I see that 20 others beat me to it. Distribution, networks, etc.There’s no quesiton of the value of “face to face” but it’s not like it is pony express in reverse. Ugh.And yes, I’m sensitive, b/c people beat on DC in some of the way.

  31. mattmaroon

    I honestly think a lot of people outside of the Valley have a better perspective. Here it’s all about Facebook and Apple, everywhere else it’s still MySpace and Microsoft.

  32. Hasan Luongo

    while we are on the subject of annoying lets take a quick look at the use of “mecca” as a defacto term to describe the epicenter or concentration of anything and everything from web stuff to shoes to hot dogs. here’s my beef – there are major religious epicenters across the world (Mecca, Jerusalem, Vatican City, Tibet etc., etc) – if its evenly spread out its not offensive

  33. Don Jones

    Sometimes it takes being outside of the forest to see the trees…

  34. JoeDuck

    Fred, a great , sensitive New Yorker post. As rural guy (formerly from NY State) I get a huge kick watching Silicon Valley folks disparage pretty much any company outside of the Bay Area.But where exactly is New York City again?I think the best examples of people embracing the new global reality may come from other countries, where finally talented folks from India, China, and maybe the Croation guy above can exchange ideas and build an international presence with a modest online effort.

    1. fredwilson

      I agree Joe

  35. carhug

    Coming from the west cost, that was a pretty lame comment to state to anybody no matter where they are located. Wow.

  36. Greg Gershman

    What’s interesting is that if you look at all the “successful” startups from the past few years, just as many, if not more, were from outside the Valley, and came to prominence without being annoited by the Valley. MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, are just a few examples, there’s plenty more.

  37. skmurphy

    I would think in your business it would be useful to be clear eyed and avoid the Valley centric astigmatism for technology analysis. I really don’t understand your complaint. If you wanted to be a well respected pundit I can appreciate how this lack of respect would be grating, but if it’s about spotting opportunities for investment that other firms are overlooking, this bias would seem to accrue a number of advantages to your firm.

  38. Tino

    Reko bi “ja mislim da ti razumis internet, i ako si iz hrvatske.” Ahh, my Croatian sucks.

  39. Dave!

    Now you know how those of us in flyover land feel! πŸ™‚ I get this kind of jackass attitude all the time…

  40. Tino

    Sorry, my comment doesn’t make sense. Meant to reply to a comment above.

  41. davemc500hats

    all of us in Silicon Valley agree: Web 2.0 intelligence falls off proportional to the square of the distance from University Cafe in downtown Palo Alto.Fred, given your location in NYC, i’m surprised you can even operate the average digital camera or iPod, much less figure out how to blog.;)

  42. sendoplasm

    get over it. thought you were tougher on the right coast

  43. Paul

    Doesn’t anyone see the irony in having a post about an East Coast stereotype lead to 50 or so comments spouting Valley generalizations? Since Fred now knows that the original email was from a fellow New Yorker (can you correct the main post please?!) perhaps that should be the real story. How we quick we seize evidence to re-enforce our world views…

    1. fredwilson


  44. The rest of the world

    Now you know how the rest fo the world feels when Americans preach to the rest of us about the web.

  45. Victor Agreda Jr

    Try living in the South. As I sit in a coffee shop in Knoxville, TN, just a stone’s throw from Oak Ridge (home to some of the best and brightest on the planet), I’m managing some very high-profile blogs about tech. Miracle!But Google, Yahoo and the rest would have me move to Cali, displace my family (all our relatives and roots are here) because they apparently haven’t learned the wonders of iChat AV.Kudos to groups who really grok having a distributed team and allowing them to live their lives free of the antiquated notion that we all have to live in the same geographic location to get things done.

  46. Alex Iskold

    What do New Yorkers think about fine folks from New Jersey? This will never end Fred.

    1. fredwilson

      I am a big fan of your fine folks from NJ alex!Fred

  47. Loic Le Meur

    Fred, they also consider Europe is a third World Country πŸ™‚

    1. Paul

      Loic – who is “they”? The email Fred posted about was from a fellow New Yorker.

    2. sweller

      loic — I think I’ve been there… it’s somewhere between Texas and Florida, right? πŸ˜‰

  48. Zeno Davatz

    Just relax DΓΌde!

  49. D. Lambert

    If you think New York’s bad, you should try Ohio!

  50. Robert Rice

    I’ve experienced that with some VCs…if you aren’t west coast or silicon valley, they aren’t interested, or you aren’t good enough, or “how can you possibly build a company outside of california?”. Then again, maybe I need a different kind of deodorant.//goes to revise business plan again//

  51. awilensky

    As a Boston transplant, I came to the Valley on a contract, and I am experiencing a lot of West Coast bias. No sympathy for Yankee devils.

  52. Jake

    East Coast sports bias, West Coast tech bias. We have to live with it.

  53. Josh Guttman

    I’m still impressed by what a hot button this topic remains. We’ve had discussion threads in nextNY on these issues that have gone on for weeks with hundreds of opinions voiced. A strong business plan with passionate and committed leaders can be executed anywhere.

  54. Josh Guttman

    I’m still impressed by what a hot button this topic remains. We’ve had discussion threads in nextNY on these issues that have gone on for weeks with hundreds of opinions voiced. A strong business plan with passionate and committed leaders can be executed anywhere.

  55. Josh Guttman

    I’m still impressed by what a hot button this topic remains. We’ve had discussion threads in nextNY on these issues that have gone on for weeks with hundreds of opinions voiced. A strong business plan with passionate and committed leaders can be executed anywhere.

  56. Bryan Thatcher

    As a New Yorker (born and bred), when ever I’m out in the Bay area talking about my product, I get snickers from the west coasters when they find out I’m from NY. or I get… your doing this, in NY?

  57. Alan Levy

    Sometimes I wonder if it would have made sense move my company to Silicon Valley, hire a young gun(S), and try to get in the good graces of “those” in the valley. Then again, I realize that the biggest media companies, advertisers, publishers, bankers, publicists, journalists, etc have their offices 30 minutes from my house in NJ. πŸ™‚

  58. ekan

    I interned at Transmeta for a summer right before the bubble burst (2000). It was enough exposure to convince me I wanted to be in tech outside of the valley. It can be a challenge, especially in a small town of 35,000 in Indiana, but it’s also got it’s perks. And $.12/square foot rent is definitely one of them. As is walking to work. And owning a house without spending a fortune.

  59. Aidan Rogers

    Is NYC as bad as it’s made out on tv? I’m think of traveling there from New Zealand but don’t really care to be shot.Any advice? Is it worth going?

    1. fredwilson

      I’ve lived here since 1983 and have never even seen a gun!Its the safest city in the usFred

  60. Carl Rahn Griffith

    you think you’ve got ill-informed (hubris-esque) west coast perception problems, fred?we are even further east than you in nyc – ie, yorkshire, england.yorkshire. it’s the new california.

  61. daryn

    Yesterday, when I read this, I was trying to think of how to respond. We have a vibrant web startup community here in Seattle, and while it isn’t silicon valley in terms of scale, it is full of smart, rational people who “get it”, with a different sort of attitude that you get down in the bay area.Coincidental timing? Today, John Markoff has a piece in NYT called “Seattle Taps Its Inner Silicon Valley”, which John Cook, one of our local tech journalists, addresses here:http://blog.seattlepi.nwsou

  62. vruz

    if only for a matter of mere statistics, the most disruptive force, the new new thing is being cooked in the brain of a little kid right now…(not in a big corporation, not in Silicon Valley, and possibly not in the US)most likely a girl reading everything on the web, somewhere in Asia, but could also be African or Latin, or all of them working it’s slowly becoming apparent as a result of an economy in an unnecesarily dire situation, Silicon Valley and Wall Street need a dose of humility and now really have to start getting it any wonder why Linux was created by a finnish boy, and a 50% of Google is because of a russian guy?look at the top of Forbes top-25 growth companies.and it’s only getting worse… or better, depends on your point of the fictional character Hubertus Bigend said in William Gibson’s “Pattern Recognition””This business of ours is narrowing. Like many others. There will be fewer genuine players. It’s no longerenough to simply look the part and cultivate an attitude.”it all comes down to authenticity, and authenticity photoshop and enron times, the only remaining thing you can’t fake.