Scoble talks about tech in Europe. Since I worked in Paris for a year immediately after working three years in Silly-con Valley, I’ll weigh in here.
First, I think the valley is actually an obstacle to doing business. The number one cause is the cost of housing. I work in Seattle. When I price houses in the bay area, they cost just about twice what my house costs. Since I measure salaries in median home price multiples, I’d have to take a 50% pay cut to move there. All bay area companies freak when I simply double my salary when asked about my expectations.
Second, the local talent is overrated. Its young (people with low overhead who don’t mind paying $1500 for 400 square feet of living space), but inexperienced. So you need more boy wonders to get the same job done as you might if you hired seasoned professionals. Given a million$ budget, I’d prefer to hire 5 senior guys at $200k rather than 20 at $50k. I’ll get more done.
Furthermore, its a myth that the valley has the biggest talent pool. Denver Colorado has more programmers per capita than any other city in the USA. This is largely due to the concentration of telcos in Denver. The cost of housing is still sane (even a little depressed because of the telco industry’s woes), and these people know how to build for scale.
Getting back to Europe, I met some phenomenally sharp people in Paris. There’s a vibrant core there and they also have their geek functions. Furthermore, they seem less influenced by the fashion crazes that brought us garbage like Java and J2EE. There are at least 4 Smalltalk oriented conferences in Europe each year – compared to only one in the USA, and a lot of interesting research in how to build systems better happens in Europe.
As to the smoking angle, hooey. American geeks don’t smoke much? Extrapolate to Americans don’t smoke much. Euro geeks smoke about as much as Europeans. I did find the smoking annoying for the first couple months, then I got used to it. (People smoked at their desks in our office). Smoking is gradually falling out of favor in Europe, and if geeks don’t like smoking, they can have a non-smoking office. Not a factor.
Europeans are better at integrating tech into their lives than Americans. (Just compare a Euro cell phone with the garbage being pushed by Verizon, Cingular, etc). They also balance their lives and walk away from their computers to think now and then. They take holidays. Much was dicussed at gnomedex about the echo chamber. Europeans are better at leaving the echo chamber and experiencing life. The wide range of cultures in a smalll geographic region give them better perspective. They get 6-8 weeks of vacation, free health care, and job security/unemploymnent benefits lasting upto a year.Â Tech workers want to give this up?Â Don’t think so.Â This is a key advantage.
If I had my choice, I’d live in Europe over California in a minute.