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The Tech Industry and the West Coast

The West coast mystifies me. Ever since I became interested in computer science and programming in middle school, the thought inevitably turns to the west coast and the high tech industry that it revolves around. Silicon valley in many ways represented what America was about – free thinking , innovation and entrepreneurship. Being on the East coast for 20 years, that culture to me has always seemed very far away, probably because my parents and my relatives have always been here and not there. We’ve never even visited the West coast even once. The closest I got to that culture was when our plane landed in Vancouver for a stopover flight.

But I’ve always had a longing for being part of that culture. Maybe its the extreme temperatures here or the more formal attitudes but I’ve always preferred the laid back casual and temperate climates of the West coast compared to the East coast. Vancouver and Toronto are different in so many ways. Los Angeles and New York City are also different in the same ways. The atmosphere is different. I wanted to experience the difference… but as long as I was in school I couldn’t go there. That had to wait until graduation to even consider the possibility.

Anyways, back to the West coast tech industry. Here’s a breakdown of which fortune 500 tech/ tech 100 companies are headquartered on the West coast:

Washington:
Amazon.com
Microsoft

Silicon Valley:
Oracle
Google
Netflix
Salesforce.com
Symantec
Intuit
McAfee
Autodesk
VMware
Hewlett Packard
Apple
Cisco
Intel
Sun Microsystems
eBay
Yahoo!
Electronic Arts

Southern California
Qualcomm
Western Digital

I think one thing to note here is the staggering amount of IT companies that are in Silicon Valley (Santa Clara County + San Francisco). If we include the startups + other companies that weren’t on the list but headquartered there (Nvidia, AMD, Sandisk, Adobe, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc), it’s easy to see that the West Coast takes up a significant proportion of tech companies.

So what is it about the West Coast in particular that fosters such a high growth of technology and entrepreneurship? I believe Intel, Xerox and HP pioneered it with their presence and the establishment of semiconductors and microchips (Xerox PARC comes to mind with its many innovations). This in turn led to development of other companies to share in their growth. The fruits of such development are seen in the amount of video game companies that developed there and IT in general. Those companies continue to sustain growth – Washington State, California State, University of California and Stanford to name a few pump thousands of engineers and computer scientists into the region which in turn fosters more start ups and more growth.

Anyways, the point of all this is that in the East coast the infrastructure is not so developed for IT. You have a lot of formality in business attitudes, and New York and Toronto are better known for financial companies than for IT. The industry of technology has its headquarters in Vancouver, Washington and California and it makes sense for me to believe that my place and my career belong more to the sunny hills and Mediterranean climate than to the skyscrapers and extreme climates that dominate here on the East coast.

But there’s more. I’m also a musician, and many of the most well known guitar + effects + pickup manufacturers + music studios are located on the West coast (particularly in SoCal). So my connection to the West coast extends to much more than just the technology industry, it’s also the music industry as well.