Silicon Valley is known for both unicorns and blackswans. What political, social, and economic ideas shape the culture of Silicon Valley today?

General information about Silicon Valley:

Silicon Valley is a global innovation centre. Hence it has become a home of technology, software and technology companies which fill with creativity, collaboration, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirits. Many famous companies, such as Apple, Facebook, and Netflix, chose to locate here and were born at this magical bay. They are all valuable companies of billion-dollar that occupy a place in the US stock market.


What are unicorns?

The unicorn is a term used to describe a start-up company with a value of over one billion dollars. Some tech-driven companies with impressive reputations that were considered unicorns are Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and so on, in Silicon Valley. According to Startup Genome’s report (Startup Genome, 2020), there were only four ecosystems that generated unicorns and multi-million-dollar exports in 2013. However, the numbers reached over 80 ecosystems in 2020.

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What are black swans?

The black swan is a term named by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. He has written a book, The Black Swan, to describe the issues of uncertainty (Lybeck, 2017). This term has three specific components: unpredictability and powerful impact, rationalising it after the fact. Many start-ups’ successes are unpredictable, such as Apple and Google, which are both defined as the truly “black swans” because these two companies’ future is discoverable (AV, 2019).


How do different ideas construct Silicon Valley’s culture today?

Political Aspect:

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Silicon Valley seems to hold a dominant power in the politics of the United States, like an indicator. The positions of tech companies have risen due to the growth of social movements near the end of the twenty-centuries (ESTRUTH, 2019). A survey done by The Guardian’s reporter has shown that most of the founders and executives from the tech industries loved the government and were very likely to support democrats (Ferenstein, 2015). As of 2012, Silicon Valley (where the world’s admired companies come from) is becoming a significant power in supporting presidential selections because 83% of top tech-driven companies’ expenditures went to Obama’s election campaign (Ferenstein, 2015a). Many founders and workers in these high-tech companies consider themselves libertarians. Libertarians think creatively and always keep themselves acting optimistically. Therefore, they believe the government should play the role of investor for the citizens and help them solve problems and make them live healthier and happier but with a civic mind. The ideology of the founders of these high-tech companies is more similar to “communitarianism“, and such “communitarianism” can better help citizens than the government and listen to their voices (Ferenstein, 2015a). For example, Uber solves the difficulty of travel, and Airbnb solves the problem of renting a house, even though their existence brings both positive and negative effects, such as government surveillance, personal data exchange, etc.


Social Circumstances:

Nowadays, many investors have travelled around the world to participate in various technology, and innovation conferences and the most repeated phrase they heard was that everyone wants to have their own Silicon Valley in their own countries, but why? It is a measure of Silicon Valley’s influence that it has become a label for the high-tech industry. Nevertheless, its success is not just due to geographical advantages and other fortuitous factors but more to cultural diversities and positivity. Silicon Valley has a unique culture of failure that represent by a particular mantra: “Fail fast, fail often” (Carroll, 2014), this fits neatly into these technologists’ self-description of themselves as optimists, and others hardly achieve this attitude. Entrepreneurs of these tech companies not only accept the failures but also celebrate them because they all believe that no one can make everything perfect without any mistakes, even the acidemias do. Failure is always a path that leads people to success. Nevertheless, among these successful entrepreneurs, there are many who have experienced many failures, but they are still full of hope for their next attempt. This culture of unyielding spirit attracts many investors to leave Wall Street for Silicon Valley. As nothing performs perfectly, Silicon Valley was deemed never to become a meritocracy. In the past, these tech companies would be less likely to consider hiring women in engineering than a white man with an outsized, bloodthirsty personality (Grillo, 2018). This is a key reason that some entrepreneurs, like Grillo, think Silicon Valley will not become more successful in the future if they do not think about changing. This action shapes the culture of social exclusion and makes the workplaces operate without diversity. This kind of exclusion worries women when they make the decision to transform into engineering jobs. They often worry about if they look good enough but will not be considered worthy of the job or do not look good enough to attract the CEO’s attention and get the job. Many investors and entrepreneurs appreciate Silicon Valley’s successes and even try to imitate their cultures, which is not a good sign. This also accelerated the gender equality issue.

Silicon Valley wants to be a meritocracy. Here’s why it’s not.

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Economic Aspect:

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It is essential to notice that WWII has given San Francisco the great gift of a brilliant environment for technological innovation. During the Cold War, the Federal funded many universities to advance technologies, which was the other reason for the birth of talented technologists in this area (Saxenian, 2014). Soon after, many OECD and the World Bank tried to enhance economic performance via policing and have innovative and high-growth entrepreneurship. This is one of the reasons that boosted Silicon Valley’s innovation and economic growth and simultaneously developed its entrepreneurial culture. The Bureau of Economy Analysis has found an estimated data, and they estimated that the GDP growth of The San Francisco Bay Area would increase to $840 billion, making the bay the 18th largest global economy if it was a country. In the age of the internet, it is undeniable to accept the rapid growth of the economy of tech companies, especially in the core of science and technology. The concept of the “Sharing economy” became famous because of the existence of Silicon Valley’s peer-to-peer economic activities, such as Airbnb and Uber, and then they were quickly catalysed by media platforms, presented industries, entrepreneurs, and grassroots activists (Martin, 2016). It was a critical feature that promoted its economic growth, and this surprised lots of people because both of the platforms have developed themselves from entrepreneurial start-ups to multi-billion-dollar international companies within less than five years, that is where the magic happened in Silicon Valley (Martin, 2016). The form of sharing economy has been considered partly sustainable and a niche market. From Martin’s point of view, he thought this kind of form would someday be generally used in the socio-technical system and serve public needs, such as travelling and public transportation, such unpredictable development and innovation continued to attract more world-talented ventures to come and generate more start-ups into corporate giants like Apple and Google (Saxenian, 2014).



In Silicon Valley’s existing culture, the old culture still lingers, but over time, as the tech company grows, it inadvertently acquiesces in the new. Politics, economics, and society are the three key elements that generate different cultures, and it is not just Silicon Valley that is changing within their flows, but the whole world as well, or it will be ruthlessly eliminated. There have been many reports and studies over the years that researched and talked about the future of Silicon Valley, but this magical place is as unpredictable as Taleb says. Nowadays, it is undoubtedly said that those tech-driven companies in Silicon Valley still lead the world in technology, and they still have a lot for entrepreneurs to learn, promote and change.



AV. (2019, June 23). 3.3 Dimension 3 — Black Swan. Medium.

Bay Area GDP Surges in 2017, Now World’s 18th Largest Economy | Bay Area Council Economic Institute. (n.d.). Retrieved October 12, 2022, from

Carroll, R. (2014, June 28). Silicon Valley’s culture of failure … and “the walking dead” it leaves behind. The Guardian; The Guardian.

DL, V. S. M. (2019, February 18). The Reality of Silicon Valley. Thought Economics.

ESTRUTH, J. A. (2019). A New Utopia: A Political History of the Silicon Valley, 1945 to 1995. Enterprise & Society, 20(4), 777–785.

Ferenstein, G. (2015a, September 29). The unusual politics of Silicon Valley, explained. Vox.

Ferenstein, G. (2015b, November 10). Silicon Valley’s new politics of optimism, radical idealism and bizarre loyalties. The Guardian.

Grillo. (2018, March 30). Changing Silicon Valley Entrepreneurship Culture from the Inside Out | LENNY.

Lybeck, E. (2017). The Black Swan. Macat Library.

Martin, C. J. (2016). The sharing economy: A pathway to sustainability or a nightmarish form of neoliberal capitalism? Ecological Economics, 121, 149–159.

Saxenian, A. (2014). The Silicon Valley Model: Economic Dynamism, Social Exclusion. Reconceptualizing Development in the Global Information Age, 28–51.

Silicon Valley wants to be a meritocracy. Here’s – ProQuest. (2019, January 1).