In a March interview with San Francisco columnist Debra J. Saunders, Meg Whitman said she would probably start eBay in Texas if she had the chance now. And tech blog ReadWriteWeb maintains an ongoing "Never Mind the Valley" series about "communities outside the Silicon Valley that have become thriving centers for entrepreneurship."
But when you crunch the numbers, California hasn't lost its startup luster just yet.
According to an analysis by Pete Warden, the state is still home to a significant chunk of the zip codes where startups are located. In response to venture capitalist Brad Feld's musing about the "entrepreneurial density" of Boulder, Colo., Warden collected data from the CrunchBase website and the U.S. Census Bureau to take a stab at actually measuring the problem.
CrunchBase is a "free directory of technology companies, people and investors that anyone can edit," according to its website. Taking this directory and using Census data, Warden looked at "the total number of companies in a location, and how much venture money they'd raised between them," and parsed it by the "amount raised per person" and "companies per person."
Either way you parse it, five of the top ten zip codes for startups are in California. Given Silicon Valley's reputation, some people might expect a much higher number. But it's still a dominant position for a state repeatedly tagged as over-regulated and overtaxed.
Warden notes that his analysis, "is a crude approach to take, since the CrunchBase data may not be a representative sample, etc., but it gives a good first approximation." He also open-sourced all the code and data to encourage further analysis.
ReadWriteWeb also saw Warden's analysis and noted that they write about areas with a flurry of startup activity, but the sources for these stories don't "offer any sort of scientific method for pointing to the cities that are the best locations for startups," according to the post.
"Warden admits that it's a 'crude approach,' but nevertheless, it's interesting to see how the numbers may or may not patch our perceptions of entrepreneurial hot spots."
Some recent Bay Area success stories include Hewlett-Packard's $1.6 billion bid to acquire Fremont's 3PAR, and Google paid $50 million to acquire the social search system developed by San Francisco's Aardvark.
For the record, here's what Whitman, who is running against Attorney General Jerry Brown in the November governor's race, said about the business climate in California. From Saunders:
Yet her model of an executive-turned-politician is New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg – and he is popular.
And in her mind, California needs a turnaround. After she had been at eBay a few years, Whitman said, the executive staff began to wonder: If we had to start eBay all over again, would we do it in California?
Which state would you pick? I asked. She answered, 'Probably Texas.'
That's different from a new ad that Whitman launched this week, boasting about Silicon Valley's innovative spirit: "Sacramento and Silicon Valley are only 130 miles apart, they may as well be on different planets. Sacramento – mismanaged, ineffective. Silicon Valley gave us Apple, Intel, eBay."
Watch Whitman talk about the ad, and Silicon Valley, here: