After two full days at AlwaysOn Media, which was a lot of fun, I was reminded of one thing that I always notice whenever I leave Silicon Valley. In Silicon Valley, technology (life sciences, IT, clean tech, etc) attracts a disproportionate share of the top talent in the region. This is not to say that all of the smart people in the valley work in tech (or in support of technology), but the idea of getting another industry to take root and flourish in that environment would be pretty tough.
Whenever I come to Boston or New York, I am always struck by the disproportionate share of talent that finance and financial services careers attract. I always find this fascinating as a student of economics. I have seen papers and books written about the ingredients you need to create a vibrant technology community (world-class research universities, capital, risk-taking individuals, rewards for risk, geographic density, etc) but there is also a social element about competing for talent with an entrenched industry that many of these academic studies don’t often cover.
The best articulation of this concept that I have heard was when Craig Barrett talked about how hard it was to get new businesses started at Intel given the dominance of the microprocessor business. If you are feeling nerdy, you can read the Businessweek article or skip right to the Wikipedia entry on the creosote bush.