Rather than become the next Silicon Valley, cities need to be themselves

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There’s something I’ve noticed when I’m networking with startup founders and leaders of tech organizations across the country: Instead of working to create something new and unique, everyone wants to be the next Silicon Valley. New York claims Silicon Alley, Texas has Silicon Hills, and the Midwest boasts Silicon Prairie. The nicknames are cute but absolutely meaningless. In the tech world, a copycat approach is a complete waste of time.

Tech is no longer an industry unto itself. Anyone can start a tech company from anywhere. In fact, we now have the largest gap ever between venture capital dollars flowing outside San Francisco and inside the city. Just as people now make cars in cities other than Detroit, founders of tech companies don’t need to head to the coasts to find success.

With that in mind, other cities should stop trying to be something they aren’t. Communities must instead leverage their strengths to shape their own distinctive tech ecosystems and identities. By focusing on what makes an area special — culture, industries, and resources — any city can create its own unique tech brand.

The power of local flavor