Startup delta

Read in The Economist of 25 July 2015:


It’s called a ‘briefing’. Subject: Silicon Valley. In The Economist of 25 July the message was: “the tech boom may get bumpy, but it will not end in a repeat of the dotcom crash.” It was a description of how the Greater San Francisco region is doing, a metropolitan ensemble of more than 5 million inhabitants on America’s Westcoast. It’s doing just great. One of the entrepreneurs in the valley confessed: “Living in San Francisco today, with its bustle and big ideas, feels like living in Florence during the Renaissance.” Florence must have been a great place, for sure, but also an expensive city at the time. The journalist admitted: “In every coffee shop from downtown San Francisco to Palo Alto you hear complaints about eye-watering property prices and unbearable traffic.” The bay area on the map – ‘valley of the kings’ – looked more like the Egyptian Nile valley during the reign of the pharaos than the valley of the Italian Arno, at the time of the Medici family. The map shows the biggest companies are located south, near San Jose: Apple, Google, Facebook. But north, in the city center of San Francisco itself, there are the new headquarters of Uber, Dropbox, Pinterest, Airbnb, all young and private companies.

Even techies prefer to live in the city now, in an urban environment. Property prices in San Francisco are soaring as a result. “Districts that were once affordable, like Soma and the Mission, are being overrun by engineers and entrepreneurs, pricing out people who have long called them home.” Even venture-capitalist firms have left the suburban neigborhoods and highway-locations near Stanford University or Palo Alto; they all moved north, “to be near the young, urban entrepreneurs who find the Valley distant and boring.” What’s happening in the valley, is what you also see glimmering in the Dutch delta. If the Netherlands want to become a ‘Startup Delta’, which the Dutch government seems to be after, then the spatial configuration that fits this ambition is an urban one, highly concentrated, in Amsterdam. Property prices are steeply rising there, so that means the government should build more houses as concentrated as possible, in the city where the technies and entrepreneurs want to live. And stop facilitating spatial dispersion.



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