Who’s Your City?

Foster City

A couple of years ago the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote a book called “The World is Flat” in which he asserts that thanks to the advance of technology the global playing field has been leveled and thus whatever prizes are out there can be had by any of us no matter where we reside on earth. It’s actually sort of common thinking in our world today that whether we live in the middle of nowhere or we live in Foster City we can and will be just as productive and our lives will be just as full. Place, we’ve been led to believe, is no longer relevant. Well, there’s a brilliant writer and columnist for the Toronto Globe and Mail by the name of Richard Florida who’s written a new book called “Who’s Your City? How the creative economy is making where to live the most important decision of your life” and his assertion is that the “flat world” truism is just simply wrong. While globalization may open up more of the world to us it also makes place a more key factor than ever before. Where we live affects every aspect of our lives, the people we meet, the “mating markets” in which we participate, the job networks and the careers accessible to us. Florida shows how the real driver of the global economy is a new economic unit he calls a “mega-region” and explains how the relatively few mega-regions around the globe make the world in fact “spiky” instead of flat. When factors such as population and economic activity are plotted on a world map spikes appear in various areas where these factors are most prevelent. But it’s innovation- which actually runs economic growth-that is the most concentrated. Guess who’s real, real high on the world map in terms of innovation. What’s also interesting is that the spiky pattern for commercial innovation can also be seen in it’s financing. Venture capital is geographically concentrated…and again, guess which area has the most venture capital. Florida states that VC firms often invoke the “twenty minute rule”…that is, only firms within a twenty minute commute from the VC firms office are considered worthy of high risk investment. If you think the spike is pretty high in our area when it comes to innovation you should see the spike for the source of much of the technological innovation…Scientific discovery. It’s amazing how many of the worlds most heavily cited scientists in leading fields are congregated here.

Now what’s all this have to do with Foster City? I’ve believed this intuitively for years and I’ve seen it play out time and time again in my business. I’ve had clients from all over the planet buy or sell houses from me. One group in particular, who are all good friends, are from Switzerland, China, France, Minnesota, Egypt, Florida and the Philippines and all are involved with technology. On several occasions I’ve seen clients lose jobs, only to bounce back almost immediately thanks to the innovation engine that is our local economy. Can you imagine all of these relationships happening or new jobs appearing if they all lived in Timbuktu and were tele-commuting? To a very great degree we’re all protected from much of the harshness that hits most other economic regions just by living in this area. The fact of the matter is that even within the mega-region there are smaller mega-regions. I posted this map on an earlier post…it’s worth another look. Notice how the areas most directly involved with innovation are doing the best? In October of 2004 some clients of mine, having lost out on a few small 3 bedroom, 1 bath houses in San Carlos, bought a much larger home in Fremont for the same price, $655,000, that they were looking at paying over here. A couple of weeks ago he called me, told me how sick of the commute he was and wanted me to let him know his current value in preparation for moving back. Two houses identical to theirs sold so far this year for $610,000 and $589,000. Meanwhile, I sold a 2 bedroom, 1 bath house in the same San Carlos neighborhood two weeks ago for $687,500. Which areas are weathering the storm better? Now add to that the fact that Foster City is positioning itself for the future with the inclusion of innovators like Gilead, IBM and Reardon Commerce, just to start, and I think it’s undeniable how bright the future is here. Just for fun, here’s a couple of interesting links. One is Carol Lloyd’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle about Richard Florida’s book:


The other is a link to the Who’s Your City? webpage:



  1. This is a great blog! Heavy meaty articles versus what you had for B-fast yesterday 🙂 I love it and take joy in voting for you over that other blog that wiped me out in round 1 of VARBuzz.

    jay P.s. send me a do follow link–haha

  2. Hey, thank you very much Jay. Very nice compliment!

  3. This is the best blog in the country… no doubt about it! Its STRONG! I just wish the owner of this blog could play racquetball a bit better.

  4. I just wish the owner of this Blog could play racquetball at all!! He’s too freaking old! Racquetball? Didn’t that go the way of the dinosaur? Speaking of dinosaurs…any significant birthday’s coming up this year, Steve?

    Steve Miller (no, not the old rock star) my old roommate at the University of Colorado, Boulder!

  5. Yes Jim one and the same. Yes, racquetball did go the way of the dinosaur an I did become a dinosaur in January. (50) I heard about your awesome blog through the grapevine and just had to check it out. Congrats on your winning effort! And hello from Boulder! Steve Go Buffs!

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