Silicon Valley is Migrating North, Part II


My Sept 21 blog was based on 25 of the 50 projected next “unicorns” (billion dollar evaluations) in the Bay Area according to a recent NY Times article. It provides visual evidence that promising new startups are locating much closer to Berkeley than to Palo Alto, an indicator of the (lesser-known) entrepreneurial success of UC Berkeley alumni. Berkeley even has its own incubator now.

A colleague pointed me to Fortune magazine’s recent list of already existing unicorns. There are 138 on that list, with 51 (37% overall) in the Bay Area and 30 (22%) just in San Francisco. They were founded between 1994 and 2015. To show change over time, I divided them into two equal time periods by year of founding: 1994 and 2004 (12 total and 3 in SF), and between 2005 and 2015 (39 total and 27 in SF). I then mapped the two lists and their geographic centers (see below). Note the number in the South Bay barely changed between decades (10 to 12), but the North Bay grew nearly 10X (3 to 28).

If I weight by valuations, the data are even more skewed; of all unicorns founded since 2005, the San Franciscans represent about 33% of the value in the world and nearly 90% of the value in the Bay Area. In the prior decade they were just 7% and 25%, respectively.

Whether we compare the number of unicorns or their valuations, and the past to the present or the present to the future, all signs point to Silicon Valley migrating north. San Francisco is its new heartland, plausibly in part because UC Berkeley is just a short BART trip across the bay.

Fortune's list of startup unicorns founded 1994-2004

Fortune’s list of Bay Area startup unicorns founded 1994-2004

Fortune's list of startup unicorns founded 2005-2014

Fortune’s list of startup unicorns founded 2005-2015