Feature

The Silicon Valley echo chamber

Is Silicon Valley thinking too small?

Nick BiltonNYTimes.com

Is Silicon Valley thinking too small? asked Nick Bilton. There’s no question that high-tech entrepreneurs there can churn out products, like Google, that appeal to the masses. But the place also tends to foster companies “whose target audience does not seem to extend far from San Francisco Bay.” Take BlackJet, for example, a start-up that offers “affordable private jet” solutions; or Swig, an exclusively San Francisco site that links people with local liquor stores that deliver. Why bother addressing issues almost no one has? There are still some big ideas in play, of course—like Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors and his SpaceX, which may one day take people to space. And some start-ups have expanded and adapted to wider audiences, such as Uber, the once-local car-service app that now serves other major cities. But the high concentration of tech workers in the Bay Area can cause some start-ups to build their business models on “fake problems that don’t actually create any value,” said Jason Pontin, editor-in-chief and publisher of MIT Technology Review. In the otherworldly atmosphere of the Valley, such miscalculations don’t seem to matter much. The techies figure that “if the company flops, that’s fine, because most start-ups do.”

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