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Big Revolution - Tech is everywhere and everywhere is tech

Welcome to Monday’s Big Revolution, brought to you from a train somewhere between Manchester and Lond
February 18 · Issue #350 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to Monday’s Big Revolution, brought to you from a train somewhere between Manchester and London, a journey I’m taking a lot at these days.
By the way, in case you missed the Saturday edition, check out my guest post about this newsletter on the Revue blog.
– Martin from Big Revolution

Big things you need to know today
  • Facebook has been branded a company of ‘digital gangsters’ in a UK parliamentary report. “The 108-page report makes excoriating reading for the social media giant, which is accused of continuing to prioritise shareholders’ profits over users’ privacy rights,” the Guardian says. The report also notes that UK democracy is vulnerable to external manipulation.
  • The UK government reckons it can mitigate any risk from using Huawei 5G telecoms equipment. Many governments have expressed concern at Huawei’s perceived closeness to the Chinese government. The UK is the first major government to say that it might not be such a big deal.
  • Etsy accidentally charged sellers on its platform large cash amounts on Friday. Amounts varied from hundreds of dollars to as much as $10,000.
The big thought
San Francisco isn’t all that in tech anymore. Credit: Amogh Manjunath on Unsplash
Tech is everywhere and everywhere is tech
Sam Altman, the head of highly-respected accelerator Y Combinator, says being based in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area is less important that it used to be for tech startups.
“The incredibly high cost of living, power of FB/Google/etc, and a few cultural issues (e.g., short tenure for people at most jobs), have finally become a counterbalance to the Bay Area’s incredibly strong network effects,” he wrote in a Twitter thread.
Altman thinks it’s still important for startups to have ties to the Bay Area to tap into its strong network of talented, well-connected people, and risk-embracing investors. But the fact that even the most influential people in that part of the world are discovering the benefits of building a company elsewhere feels overdue.
It will come as no surprise to many readers of this newsletter that you can build a successful tech company almost anywhere in the world.
A great example – Leeds in the North of England wasn’t a good city for tech at all in 2001. But that’s when Blue Prism, a pioneer in ‘robotic process automation’ (RPA) started out. It now has offices around the world but is proudly headquartered near Warrington – still in the North of England – while leading in automation, one of the hottest fields in technology. While Leeds has a decent amount of tech these days, Warrington doesn’t really. Location doesn’t matter if you have the right approach to your business.
My favourite part of Altman’s thread is when he says companies moving outside the Bay Area are “just sort of diffused everywhere. I doubt there will ever be another American city that will eclipse SF for concentration of software startups.”
As tech gradually transforms every industry and every aspect of our lives (tech is everything, and everything is tech), there’s more need for more technology companies, and they can’t all be based in one small patch of land. Tech is everywhere, and everywhere is tech.
One word of warning though – while tech entrepreneurs are increasingly embracing the idea of being based in a diverse range of locations, that doesn’t mean they have the right kind of investors on their doorstep.
The wrong kind of investor can stifle a tech startup’s growth, and you don’t find the right investment mindset and expertise everywhere. Tech investors need to address this issue with a more location-agnostic approach. That can be difficult (as investors like to be able to easily visit the companies in their portfolio) but those who figure out a solution will be able to tap into some incredible opportunities.
One big read
How smart are Gmail’s ‘smart replies’?
Thoughts about living your life (or at least running your email) via Gmail’s smart replies. Is there any real benefit to them at all yet?
One big tweet
As someone who helps tech companies communicate better, it’s interesting to look back at how announcements by the tech giants have evolved over time.
Alex Kantrowitz
Google product announcements used to be pretty fun. Here's what the introduction of Google Calendar looked like in April 2006.
5:55 AM - 18 Feb 2019
That’s all for today...
That’s all for today. See you tomorrow, folks.
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