Is California the Center of the Universe?

Can other regions of the world replicate the unique mix of innovation drivers that California – and especially Silicon Valley – has been able to put into one magical growth elixir? That was the topic of conversation during a panel I participated in at the Milken Global Conference last week.

It was a rich issue to discuss and, in some ways, debate. Two of my fellow panelists represented Southern California: Gil Elbaz, CEO of Factual, and Adam Miller, Founder and CEO of Cornerstone OnDemand. The other two of us were Silicon Valley residents transplanted from elsewhere, Bracken Darrell, President and CEO of Logitech — originally from Kentucky — and me, originally from Canada. Moderator Kevin Klowden from the Milken Institute kept it moving. We didn’t get into the SoCal vs. NorCal argument very much, actually – but I did note that LA was colder than the Bay Area on this particular day!

While California continues to be on the leading edge, we have to invest to stay ahead. Three key takeaways stood out to me from the discussion:

As a “transplant” to California, my perspective is the state has had an early and strong advantage – not unlike the leading position a company takes when entering a new market – but we can’t expect it will continue without focused efforts. In boardrooms, universities and legislature, it’s important we continue to discuss ways California can retain its leading position in innovation and invention. It’s not only key to the future of this state, it’s importance is global. Past performance is usually the best predictor of the future – and think about how many life-changing innovations start here in California.