If you don’t live in Silicon Valley, chances are you live in its close relative: “the next Silicon Valley.” The label has been slapped with abandon on towns, cities, regions, or sometimes entire countries. All it takes is an uptick in job growth, an influx of startups, or a new coding bootcamp for the cliche to come roaring into headlines and motivational speeches.
In 2008, Margaret O’Mara developed an urge to chronicle this obsession. A Department of History professor at the University of Washington, she’d written a book several years earlier about the search for the next Silicon Valley. The moniker remained as omnipresent as ever, so she hired an undergraduate student to compile every Silicon Valley, Alley, Peak, Beach, Desert, Wadi, Bog, and more. Six weeks later, the student had to concede defeat: There were too many silicon somethings to track. “It’s become this global race. It’s a competitive thing, it’s a branding thing,” says O’Mara. “It’s a way of saying, ‘Look, we are just as forward-thinking and 21st century as everyone else.’”
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