The Urban Tech Revolution

Tech startups—and the venture capital on which they thrive—are breaking out of their suburban mold.

Ever since their nearly simultaneous births roughly half a century ago, the high-tech industry and venture capital have been clustered in suburbs: in the low-rise office parks spread across California’s vaunted Silicon Valley, where Intel, Apple, Google, and Facebook have their headquarters; along the Route 128 tech corridor near Boston; in Redmond, Washington, outside Seattle, where Microsoft’s vast headquarters is located; in the suburbs surrounding Austin, Texas; and in the North Carolina Research Triangle of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, to give a few notable examples. They are not so much suburbs as “nerdistans,” specifically developed to attract high-tech industry and high-tech workers. Think of San Narciso in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, “less an identifiable city than a grouping of concepts—census tracts, special purpose bond-issue districts, shopping nuclei, all overlaid with access roads to its own freeway.” Looking at its expanse through the windows of her rental car, one of the book’s characters “thought of the time she’d opened a transistor radio to replace a battery and seen her first printed circuit. The ordered swirl of houses and streets, from this high angle, sprang at her now with the same unexpected, astonishing clarity.”

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