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Job One: Change the World

May
10
2005

Regular readers of this site probably aren’t surprised to see that I haven’t made that big a deal about the decision to locate the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine here in San Francisco.
It was pretty obvious this would happen when we started on this path this time last year.
Mayor Gavin Newsom’s charm and hard work helped, of course. But a quieter power, the influence of the guys who built this thing was – and will remain – a force to be reckoned with in the days ahead. It’s been billed as a Democratic Party effort (kinda, sorta) and as a L.A.-backed effort (only in the eyes of New Yorkers). It would have been much more surprising if CIRM had ended up in San Diego or LA. CIRM, you see, is a product of Silicon Valley’s “friends and family” culture, the culture that enriched the valley during the tech bubble and which has kept its inventors, scientists, engineers, financiers and others in the “change the world” business for some time now.


The valley ushered in a new era of instant communication that is in the process of changing almost every business and industry we know, it’s time to usher in a new age of scientific research. Some of this is as high-minded as it sounds. But make no mistake, not all of it is as altruistic as its backers would like us to believe. Silicon Valley’s friends and family are always on the look out for their return on investment.
And yeah, we’ll have another boom. Count on it. CIRM is going to usher in – with $3 billion to spend, it can hardly help itself – a new round of spending and investment up and down the state. But most of the money will stay up here. The valley’s movers and shakers, its venture capitalists, don’t like to travel. A plane ride to San Diego is barely acceptable. A drive up to the city is better. And two, they will keep much of their money here in the Bay area. Why? Many of these venture capitalists – particularly Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers which produced many of the greatest hits of the Internet, are tight with the research institutes that ring the Bay Area: University of California San Francisco and Berkeley and Stanford have been pumping out engineers for years. Biologists, too. And the biologists of the future are going to be computer geeks, if they’re not already. No one has any reason to leave town; they’ve got the money, the resources and, now, the clubhouse.
So fasten your seat belts, kids. The LATimes says San Francisco is ‘healing”. That, of course, isn’t exactly true. Things picked up around here with Gay Wedding madness a year ago.
But let’s not strip the folks to the south of their illusions that we’ve all spent the past four years in mourning for the tech boom and its ridiculous rents, snotty restaurant maitre d’s, over-priced hotel rooms and jam-packed bars and highways. Nah. Let’s keep that little secret to ourselves…..

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