Why Tim Ferriss left Silicon Valley, “It’s like Washington DC with fewer neck ties”

During a recent reddit AMA Tim Ferriss was asked why he chose to leave Silicon Valley and I thought that his answer was very telling. He wrote about the echo chamber that has developed in the area that will not tolerate any opinions outside of their orthodoxy.

He doesn’t mention it but I’m sure that the drop in state income tax from California to Texas helped make his decision that much easier.

I don’t understand why anyone would want to live or start a business in California at this point. The problem is that many cities (such as Austin where Tim is going) are being overrun by people from places like Silicon Valley who then immediately start creating the same environment they escaped from. Some will admit this outright and see the spread of their values to other states as a great thing. Indeed, I think that many of the problems outlined by Ferriss already exist in many US cities, just to a lesser extent. I wouldn’t be surprised if he decides to spend most of his time outside of the US in the coming years. Just using Austin to attend networking events and have a residency.

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Read his response below and let me know what you think. 

Indeed, I have relocated to Austin TX. After 17 years or so, I decided to leave Silicon Valley.

This answer could be a mini-novel, but suffice to say, here are a few reasons:

1) I wanted to move to Austin after college but didn’t get the job at Trilogy Software. Since 2007, I’ve visited Austin every year and felt the pull to move there each time. It a wonderful exploding scene of art, music, film, tech, food, and more. The people are also — in general — much friendlier.

2) After effectively “retiring” from angel investing 2 years ago, I have no professional need to be SF or the Bay Area.

3) Silicon Valley is often a culture of cortisol, of rushing, and of fear of missing out (FOMO). There is also a mono-conversation of tech that is near impossible to avoid (much like entertainment is some parts of LA), where every dinner has some discussion of rounds of funding, investing, and who is doing what with Uber, Amazon, or someone else. This can be dodged, but it takes very real and consistent effort. I don’t want to spend 20-30% of my daily mental calories on avoiding the mono-conversation.

4) Even though Silicon Valley has the highest concentration of brilliant people I’ve found anywhere in the world, it also has the highest concentration of people who think they’re brilliant. The former are often awesome, keenly self-aware, and even self-deprecating (let’s call that 15% of the population), but the latter are often smug, self-satisfied, arrogant, and intolerable (let’s call that 60% of the population). That ratio just no longer works for me. It’s too much. This asshole inflation usually corresponds to bubbles (I’ve seen it before), when fair-weather entrepreneurs and investors flood the scene.

5) Silicon Valley also has an insidious infection that is spreading — a peculiar form of McCarthyism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCarthyism) masquerading as liberal open-mindedness. I’m as socially liberal as you get, and I find it nauseating how many topics or dissenting opinions are simply out-of-bounds in Silicon Valley. These days, people with real jobs (unlike me) are risking their careers to even challenge collective delusions in SF. Isn’t this supposed to be where people change the world by challenging the consensus reality? By seeing the hidden realities behind the facades? That’s the whole reason I traveled west and started over in the Bay Area. Now, more and more, I feel like it’s a Russian nesting doll of facades — Washington DC with fewer neck ties, where people openly lie to one another out of fear of losing their jobs or being publicly crucified. It’s weird, unsettling, and, frankly, really dangerous. There’s way too much power here for politeness to be sustainable. If no one feels they can say “Hey, I know it makes everyone uncomfortable, but I think there’s a leak in the fuel rods in this nuclear submarine…” we’re headed for big trouble.

6) Golden Gate and tech are terrorist targets, and I don’t like being close to the bullseye. This is based on good information from friends who work full-time in threat assessment.

7) I really like the sun and SF is foggy.

8) BBQ.

9) Austin is far more dog-friendly than SF.

10) Sometimes you need to think about the “where” of happiness and change your scenery to prompt new chapters in your life.

In the end, I absolutely LOVE the Bay Area, but it’s become a perverted Bizarro world version of what attracted me there in 2000. Many of my best friends in the world are there, and it pained me to leave, but I had to relocate for my own sanity, growth, and happiness.

Oh, and one more time: Texas BBQ.

Hope that helps clarify a bit!


Related post: Silicon Valley Debt Slavery: Is This the New American Dream?

  • Really great profile and analysis. Ferriss is interesting to observe and I always weigh his perspective. Thanks James!

  • Tim Welch

    Nice to hear someone of his success level being honest. I have been in the Silicon Valley since 1996 and what he is saying is very true. It’s become a big echo chamber and the political correctness can be really tough to take after awhile.