The Ville takes on the Valley, Silicon Valley, that is

Earlier this year, the City of Greenville was selected by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University as one of three cities to do a deep dive on in terms of how public policy impacts economic development. 

Last week, they flew Mayor Knox White, John Barnett (local founder with roots in Silicon Valley), and me out to Palo Alto to hear from students and research fellows as well as mix with our peer cities – Mesa, AZ, and Milwaukee, WI – to share best practices and make connections. 

Palo Alto area mayors + Knox White, Mayor of Greenville, SC

It was inspiring to be immersed in that epicenter of tech and innovation! Here’s a few things we picked up: 

Silicon Valley is like no place on Earth

      • Coffee shops packed with DOERS – s/o to the Mocha Tesoro at Philz Coffee.
      • Coworking spaces that rent by the hour ($4/hr) were full – Hanahaus.
      • A panel of mayors (Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Redwood City) shared that they’re facing their own issues so it’s not all rosy being such a tech hub: astronomic housing market, development costs, transportation, etc. 
      • Never say “the next Silicon Valley” – it’s such an impossible and maybe undesirable attainment – it’s truly the only place like it on the planet.
      • But to see Meta HQ (9-acre rooftop garden complete with wild foxes running around!) and Googleplex (looked like the world’s biggest circus tent) and drive down the famed Sand Hill Road (where venture capital got its start and a reason the Valley has 63 billionaires!) was impressive.

Stanford people are smart

    • Like off-the-charts pedigree – one young lady is getting her Harvard JD and Stanford MBA at the same time.
    • The Hoover Institution is a well-regarded think tank and provided exposure to a wide range of ‘things you should be thinking about’ – like remote talent (what keeps them in a place) and cybersecurity (deep fakes).
    • It’s tremendous that a city the size of Greenville punches above its weight and is now firmly on their radar.
    • We’ll be leveraging this connection and look forward to more projects coming down the pike.

Greenville is playing with a strategic advantage, but we have the chance to take things up a notch.

    • Greenville was a positive example cited in other pitches.
    • Most of the students’ research suggestions are doable/feasible and just require attention and leadership (we’re on it!).
    • We have an ideal combination of assets – a business-friendly ecosystem, wonderful remote working conditions, and decades of investment towards quality of life just now starting to bloom, literally.
    • Imagine luring just a handful of software engineers from an overcrowded (read: expensive) community to Greenville and build a business in a place they love to live – the impact will be dramatic.
    • We need to leverage our universities as talent magnets – not just founders, but also engineering and design teams; not just tech transfer, but also future founders. 
    • There is an opportunity for regional industries to be more connected and directly involved in the startup community.
    • Continue to cultivate angel and seed investors who are aligned with our objective to grow the community – actively recruit outside investors and bring more statewide money to the table.

Special thanks to John Barnett, Greenville-based founder and CEO of Supermoon, who was an exceptional tour guide. John spent almost a decade in the Valley working for the likes of Twitter and Instagram before it got bought by Facebook (Meta). If you’ve ever posted an IG Story or used Boomerang, you have John to thank! Walking through Meta with him was like being there with a celebrity: he’s still regarded as one of the best product managers and I wouldn’t have been shocked to see his keyboard and mouse hanging from the rafters like some NBA jersey.  Thanks, John – I’m so grateful you’re in #StartupGVL!

Also, thanks to the team at Hoover – Josh Rauh, Dean Ball, and Jillian Ludwig for making all of the arrangements. And thanks to the students on Team Greenville – Mike Arth, Gavin McGarry, and Marianne Aguilar for your insights and action items. Can’t wait for y’all to come to #StartupGVL and see what we’re implementing from your suggestions!