Honored Advisor
Posts: 15,195
Registered: ‎05-13-2010

California`s secret sauce of creativity.

Okay, we can bash California on a lot of issues and justifiably so, however on their creativity in the high tech businesses, they are second to none in the world.  I got a firsthand look at Silicon Valley and then I look at us farmers still spraying Roundup, still spraying Banvel, still spraying Cobra, still spiking our spray mixes with Atrazine.   I do not believe for one minute that the movers and shakers of the Bay area would put up with this if they were running the farm chemical business.  


An obvious mistake that the chem companies/seed companies STILL won`t admit is that they screwed up in worshipping at the alter of gene splicing while totally overlooking the chemistry side of pest control and relying on various cocktails of 50 and 70 year old "grandpa miracle juice".


There are many secrets to California`s success, but a big one is that California doesn`t recognize non-compete clauses in business.  Instead if a 25yr old employee wants to quit his job to start up a company, his 29yr old boss gives him his blessing and hopes that startup company will be someone that THEY can do business with.  Big companies out there fully expect that innovative employees will not work the rest of their lives in indentured servitude.  


But this old 50yr old thinking is what results in our 50yr old weed killing chemistry.   Oh I know there are other issues, but everyone has to admit that there is a gigantic creativity deficit in the farm pest control pantry.  And I see this with healthcare too, a surgeon that is unhappy with his current system, he can`t go to the neighboring health system for employment, he maybe has to move his family across the country because of a non-compete or "tend a garden" for 2 years until they release him.  


The new Apple headquarters in Cupertino. A state ban on noncompete agreements has been seen as a key to the development of Silicon Valley. CreditJustin Sullivan/Getty Images

Good morning.

(Want to get California Today by email? Here’s the sign-up.)

Today’s introduction comes from Conor Dougherty, a reporter based in the Bay Area.

Workers around the country are increasingly being asked to sign noncompete agreements devised to keep them from leaving their job for a rival company. It’s a trend that has extended down the economic ladder to people like hairdressers and dirt-shovelers who are unlikely to possess trade secrets.

But Californians don’t have to worry about it. California law prohibits noncompetes, and this ban is often cited as key to the development of Silicon Valley. To learn more about how this law helped create the modern technology industry, we talked to AnnaLee Saxenian, dean of the U.C. Berkeley School of Information and author of “Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128.”


Q. How important was California’s ban to the development of the Valley?

A. If there had been aggressive enforcement of noncompetes, Silicon Valley would probably not be what it is today. But the dynamism goes beyond the legal context. From the very early days there was a sense in the Bay Area that people were in it together and trying to build something different, and they built a culture where it was O.K. to share information more openly and it was O.K. to leave to start something new.

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Q. What famous company might we not have?

A. In 1956, eight top engineers left the Shockley Semiconductor Lab in Palo Alto to start the Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation. While they were labeled at the time as the “traitorous eight,” virtually all left within the subsequent decades to start yet another generation of ventures.

By the time that Fairchild’s Robert Noyce, Andy Grove and Gordon Moore left to start the Intel Corp in 1968 there were more than a dozen other “Fairchildren” in the region. A 1986 genealogy included 126 semiconductor companies that could be traced directly to Fairchild.

In the early days engineers would say, “I work for Silicon Valley.” And the idea was that they were advancing technology for a region, not any single company’s technology. We often think in the U.S. that people or companies create success, but what Silicon Valley shows us is that often it’s communities of people across a region.

Q. There was a recent case in which Google, Apple and others were accused of “an overarching conspiracy” to lower wages for engineers by agreeing not to poach each other’s workers. What does that tell you about how California companies feel about the ban on noncompetes?

A. Essentially they’re becoming the older, more inward-looking companies that early versions of themselves rejected. Maybe it’s natural, but it’s a real departure from the earlier culture of the Valley, which recognized that people will come and go but ultimately we’ll all be better off.