Over the years there has been many-a-mention of Humboldt County as the Napa Valley of Cannabis. However – Humboldt Underground staff is not entirely convinced of Humboldt’s likeness to Napa. Undoubtedly there are some shared traits but there are differences as well.
Being the socially focused group that we are, HU likes to view Humboldt County as the Silicon Valley of cannabis. Observing the industry through this lens permits us to see the people of the greater Humboldt area as a knowledge base with innovative and industrious potential. HU is dedicated to promoting the people of the local cannabis industry and this is the reason we take on this lens. In spite of this, a fascinating research question takes shape: what are the similarities and differences between the emergence of Humboldt’s cannabis industry, Napa Valley’s wine industry, and Silicon Valley’s tech industry – and what can we learn from this comparison. This three-part piece will start with a comparison of Humboldt County and Silicon Valley.
Silicon Valley is thought of as the epicenter of the information tech revolution. It was the seedbed of revolution because of a congregation of pioneering talent and knowledge – the local bar was the place to share ideas, problems, and solutions – the Valley has since become the central location of the tech industry.
As Spanish Sociologist Manual Castells writes, “The first information technology revolution clustered in America, and to some extent California, in the 1970s, building on developments of the two preceding decades and under the influence of various institutional, economic, and cultural factors” (The Network Society – p.60).
These factors include skilled researchers (at Stanford in the heart of Silicon Valley), readily available (venture) capital, creative entrepreneurs, and government spending on research, support, and development. Today Silicon Valley remains the center of technological innovation with a concentration of research centers, higher education facilities, tech companies, suppliers of tech goods and services, and venture capital. This area now attracts global intellectual talent that perpetuates the Valley’s tech industry success, creating a strong local economy.
The government played a strong role in initiating the info tech revolution – i.e. research spending – but without innovative entrepreneurs backed by venture capital, Silicon Valley may never have been. Government spending on research and development combined with a (capital) nourished culture of creativity led to the blossoming of Silicon Valley.
In addition to this, Castells hypothesized that Silicon Valley’s success was also driven by needs – the need to create/expand markets, increase demand, and persuade investment; as investors consider investment too risky without observable demand (this is why initial government investment was so important).
These needs are the demands of our modern global economy (whether we like it or not) and thus these demands became the needs of Silicon Valley’s tech industry.
If the center of the tech industry was going to stay in Silicon Valley; then the skilled research, venture capitalists, creative entrepreneurs, and government support would have to coalesce to compete with the rest of the nation and world in the modern global economy.
Fffew… ok, smoke break…
Back…? Ok, so what can we take from this analysis by Castells? Well, if we significantly simplify (sorry Manuel!) this one-minute piece of his empirical theory on the emergence of network society, then we can distill four factors and three needs that we can use to compare Humboldt County’s cannabis industry with Silicon Valley tech industry.
First, the factors that led to the success of the Valley’s tech industry were: (1) a concentration of talented/skilled researchers, (2) venture capital, (3) creative entrepreneurs, and (4) government spending.
Next the needs that drove Silicon Valley’s tech industry to success were: (1) the need to create/expand markets, (2) increase demand, and (3) persuade investment. If we take these factors and needs; and view them as a framework for success in the modern global economy, then we can apply them to Humboldt’s cannabis industry.
Now that the hard part of our deductive analysis is done, let us get to the fun part and see how Humboldt’s cannabis industry stacks up. First the factors: do the factors that led to the success of the Silicon Valley’s tech industry exist in Humboldt County’s cannabis industry? Well, lets ask ourselves…
(1) Do talented/skilled cannabis researchers exist in Humboldt? (2) Do venture capitalists willing to invest in cannabis industry, research, and development exist in Humboldt? (3) Do creative entrepreneurs exist in Humboldt? (4) Does government spending on cannabis research, industry development, and support exist in Humboldt?
Now for the needs: do the needs that led to the success of the tech industry in Silicon Valley exist in Humboldt County? Well, lets see…
(1) Does Humboldt need to create and expand markets for its cannabis? (2) Does Humboldt need to increase demand for its cannabis? (3) Does Humboldt need to persuade investors to invest in its cannabis industry?
Well you tell us… HU isn’t about the answers; we like to ask the questions. HU will address these questions in future posts but for now we want to hear what you have to say.
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