California Today: Silicon Valley’s Secret Sauce
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Today’s introduction comes from Conor Dougherty, a reporter based in the Bay Area.
Workers around the country are increasingly being asked to sign noncompete agreements devised to keep them from leaving their job for a rival company. It’s a trend that has extended down the economic ladder to people like hairdressers and dirt-shovelers who are unlikely to possess trade secrets.
But Californians don’t have to worry about it. California law prohibits noncompetes, and this ban is often cited as key to the development of Silicon Valley. To learn more about how this law helped create the modern technology industry, we talked to AnnaLee Saxenian, dean of the U.C. Berkeley School of Information and author of “Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128.”
Q. How important was California’s ban to the development of the Valley?
A. If there had been aggressive enforcement of noncompetes, Silicon Valley would probably not be what it is today. But the dynamism goes beyond the legal context. From the very early days there was a sense in the Bay Area that people were in it together and trying to build something different, and they built a culture where it was O.K. to share information more openly and it was O.K. to leave to start something new.
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Q. What famous company might we not have?
A. In 1956, eight top engineers left the Shockley Semiconductor Lab in Palo Alto to start the Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation. While they were labeled at the time as the “traitorous eight,” virtually all left within the subsequent decades to start yet another generation of ventures.
By the time that Fairchild’s Robert Noyce, Andy Grove and Gordon Moore left to start the Intel Corp in 1968 there were more than a dozen other “Fairchildren” in the region. A 1986 genealogy included 126 semiconductor companies that could be traced directly to Fairchild.
In the early days engineers would say, “I work for Silicon Valley.” And the idea was that they were advancing technology for a region, not any single company’s technology. We often think in the U.S. that people or companies create success, but what Silicon Valley shows us is that often it’s communities of people across a region.
Q. There was a recent case in which Google, Apple and others were accused of “an overarching conspiracy” to lower wages for engineers by agreeing not to poach each other’s workers. What does that tell you about how California companies feel about the ban on noncompetes?
A. Essentially they’re becoming the older, more inward-looking companies that early versions of themselves rejected. Maybe it’s natural, but it’s a real departure from the earlier culture of the Valley, which recognized that people will come and go but ultimately we’ll all be better off.
(Please note: We regularly highlight articles on sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers.)
• “No one ought to, in my view, rush to embrace the most extraordinary remedy that involves the removal of the president from office,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff. [The New York Times]
• Narcotic-affected newborns have nearly doubled in California. A rise in prescription painkillers helps explain. [Sacramento Bee]
• Two men who beat a Sikh man and cut his hair in the Bay Area were sentenced to three years in prison. [The New York Times]
• Programs like Compton Jr. Posse in Los Angeles reveal the therapeutic power of communing with animals. [The New York Times]
• Since 2014, ambulances have rushed more than 100 times to aid workers at a Tesla factory in Fremont. [The Guardian]
• More entrepreneurs are bypassing the Bay Area to start companies in places like Austin and Los Angeles. [San Francisco Chronicle]
• Forget sleek architecture. Los Angeles museums are finding homes in places like a Masonic temple and a historic bank. [The New York Times]
• The Warriors are undefeated in the playoffs. Would Steve Kerr’s return rock the boat? [San Francisco Chronicle]
• A virtual-reality exhibition by Alejandro G. Iñárritu places viewers between migrants and border guards. [The New York Times]
• “Into the unknown” — watch a Daily 360 video about people with disabilities rock climbing in Joshua Tree. [The New York Times]
• Here are five Bay Area hikes that end at bars. [7×7]
And Finally …
Last week, we asked you to tell us your favorite Los Angeles restaurants.
Hundreds of recommendations poured in, with many readers expressing pride in the city’s overall food scene.
“What I can say for sure is that L.A. is severely underrated,” wrote Mike Cline, 59, a marketing executive.
Among the submissions, two restaurants were mentioned most of all: Gjelina in Venice and République in Hancock Park.
Gjelina, wrote Sam Sifton, the New York Times food editor, is “a loud, fashionable and vegetable-centric neighborhood spot as well known for the attractiveness of its clientele as for its pizzas and salads, slathered toasts and smoky pastas.”
République serves French-inspired dishes in a dramatic 1920s building.
In a review, the Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold described it as “a super-bistro, a small-plates joint jacked up on steroids.”
Another 16 restaurants earned numerous reader mentions. They are, in no particular order:
10e Restaurant, 811 West Seventh Street
Alimento, 1710 Silver Lake Boulevard
Bestia, 2121 East Seventh Place
Osteria Mozza, 6602 Melrose Avenue
Sqirl, 720 North Virgil Avenue
Hatchet Hall, 12517 West Washington Boulevard
Manuela, 907 East Third Street
Musso and Frank Grill, 6667 Hollywood Boulevard
Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle, 2057 Sawtelle Boulevard
Jon & Vinny’s, 412 North Fairfax Avenue
Shibumi, 815 South Hill Street
Guisados, multiple locations
Rustic Canyon, 1119 Wilshire Boulevard
Lucques, 8474 Melrose Avenue
Cafe Gratitude, multiple locations
Petit Trois, 718 North Highland Avenue
California Today goes live at 6 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com.
The California Today columnist, Mike McPhate, is a third-generation Californian — born outside Sacramento and raised in San Juan Capistrano. He lives in Davis.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.
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