America’s carmakers seemed to be an unstoppable force until innovation went global. There’s still time for the U.S. tech industry to adjust for these times.
In the 1950s, the cutting-edge technology of the day was automobiles, not computers. At the time, Detroit was on top of the world. The top three global car companies were headquartered there. The world’s leading entrepreneurs flocked there for access to talent, capital, and culture. Detroit was leading the way in automotive technology, which promised to reinvent the ways we built our cities, organized our society, and lived our lives. Then innovation started to take root all over the world. Car companies emerged in France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Sweden, and Japan. Over time, certain regions specialized, and in time surpassed Detroit. Italy became the home of the best and fastest sports cars, and Germany to raw engineering. Silicon Valley and Shenzhen are the leaders in electric cars. The playbook on car making was also rewritten abroad. Toyota, for instance, pioneered the transformative approach of “just in time” manufacturing. Detroit was left behind.
Silicon Valley may be headed for a similar fate. Again, we’re seeing innovation today taking root everywhere. There are over 480 startup hubs around the world and 1.3 million startups. The best place in the world to create super-apps is China. The largest digital bank is in Brazil. The largest robotic process automation company was started in Romania. The world of tech is global, and to thrive in the next few decades, Silicon Valley will need to regroup, retool, and reinvent itself to stay on top—or at least stay relevant.
Especially during the ongoing global health crisis and subsequent stay-at-home orders, employees are learning how to work remotely, and companies are weighing some of the costs and benefits to this new remote world. Many companies in the Bay Area have already drastically expanded their work-from-home policies, some like Facebook have banned group meetings over 50 until 2021, and Twitter has gone so far as to allow remote work for all employees indefinitely. If a new normal includes such liberal remote work policies and the limited ability to congregate, Silicon Valley may lose some of its purpose as a technology hub as teams get distributed across the country and even the world.
But this doesn’t mean that Silicon Valley is destined to slip into irrelevancy. There are still opportunities to maintain its dominance in the tech world, including: