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Gateway to the West 🌉
A JamBlog by Pinview Founder Mychal Culpepper
A westward journey seems to be emblematic of every great adventure story. Davy Crockett led the charge in the Texas Revolution against Mexico, Lewis & Clarke set out to traverse the American Continent and most significantly the exploration of the New World by colonial powers. But, I think the most clear depiction of westward expansion is encapsulated by the Chinese epic, Journey to the West. In this tale the buddhist monk Xuanzang travels west in search of enlightenment, accompanied by the one of the most recognizable characters in eastern folklore, Sun Wukong (i.e, the monkey king/ who Goku from DBZ is based on). Similar to Xuanzang, I think modern day frontiersmen continue to travel west, in search of meaning and purpose, myself being no exception.
The Digital Gold Rush
Since 1849 California has stood as a pillar of opportunity for the rest of the country. In modernity, Silicon Valley has become a bastion of knowledge for the entire world, attracting the most audacious and skilled founders to tackle the world’s biggest problems. Firms like Andreesen Horowitz and Sequoia Capitalserve as the power plants for innovation, driving huge returns for those who maintain that plant and grow it’s output.
Silicon Valley represents a true meritocracy! At least, that’s how it’s advertised. In reality it has devolved as just a guarded industry as any, with connections being much more important than the idea or the founder behind it. Many a founder has horror stories of their experience in Silicon Valley as an “outsider”.
Personally I think this is actually just part of predictable cycle that truly great innovations go through. At first power is decentralized, then it becomes highly concentrated and breaks apart again (aggregation theory courtesy of Josh Hsu).
The Next Frontier
Currently Phoenix is the 5th largest American city with a population of approximately 1.6M. As a midwesterner, it serves as a western Florida, with an UNGODLY amount of snowbirds flocking here to escape the winter or establish residence more permanently. At present the area attracts real estate tycoons who seen this as a gold mine, with redfin scoring the competition here with a 75 out of 100.
BUT that’s not why I think Phoenix will emerge as the next tech hotspot, rather I think it’s a confluence of several factors
Location — It serves as a desert oasis, making it ideal for any kind of outdoor activity, i.e. more in person meetups. It also is almost perfectly centered between all the major tech hubs of the west:
i. 4 hrs to Las Vegas
ii. 6 hrs to LA
iii. 11 hrs to SV
iv. 13 hrs to Denver
v. 11 hrs to SLC
Market Size — Phoenix has the critical mass of inhabitants w/in a confined area for products, especially consumer facing ones, to scale and scale quickly
Affordability — Called “the poor man’s California” it serves as exactly that. As soon as you descend into the valley it wont take very long to spot a California license plate…or 12 🤷🏾♂️
“Otherness” — since being in Jampad I’ve been pondering why things seem to coalesce so easily. Why I get along w/ these founders and this group better than anyone else and I’ve come to it with one simple conclusion…otherness. We all don’t fit in w/ where we’re from in one way or another, and thus embarked on a journey to find a place where others dared to be so audacious and willing to disregard the rules. Hmmm, wonder what that’s reminiscent of🤔…?
Baptism by Fire
Every city has an ethos that drives it and attracts others through the stories they hear of the triumphs and Phoenix will be no different. In mythology, a Phoenix is a bird born of fire that cannot be killed, but rather rises from its own ashes. This feels like a fitting metaphor for the founders I’ve met here, who were killed for their boldness in their respective hometowns, but experienced a rebirth in this city.
Similar Xuanzang and his desire to become enlightened in his travels to India, founders have sought out an adventure to build things that will ultimately change humanity. That is why when we look back on it, we’ll see Phoenix as a city where all paths to greatness converge; a true Gateway to the West 🌉.