It's hard to believe that Silicon Valley had humble beginnings. Today it's an affluent region home to millionaires (and billionaires!), the software companies they built, and hundreds of startups chasing the dream. But it started out as farmland and orchards before morphing into a manufacturing and blue collar hub in the decades after World War II.
Silicon Valley is not a city itself, but a region of the San Francisco Bay Area that runs roughly from south of San Francisco to San Jose. It earned its name from the many local companies manufacturing computer chips, which used silicon as a primary component. More than two dozen cities and communities are now included within its boundaries.
The area included when someone mentions refers to the Valley has changed over time. Initially it referred to just the Santa Clara Valley in Santa Clara County, but it's expanded to include any city in the region with a prominent software industry. These days it extends north into the cities of San Mateo County. You'll likely find no one agrees on exactly what cities are included, but you can bet the term will expand as tech companies continue moving north in search of more affordable office space.
Many of the world's biggest and best known technology companies are based here: Google, Apple, Facebook, eBay, Cisco, Electronic Arts, Netflix, Oracle, and Hewlett Packard are just some of the marquee names you'll recognize here. But there's more to the region's businesses than just software. NASA has a research center. Visa, the financial services company, is based here. Tesla is headquartered here.
The employees at these companies are highly educated and well paid. Those healthy paychecks and the large population of people who have hit it big when their companies became successful have contributed to skyrocketing housing prices. Families where both parents work and earn six figures are still solidly in the Valley's middle class. Modest homes easily sell for over a million dollars.
This is a thoroughly suburban area and there's not much to demarcate one city from another as you drive through. It does have pockets of urban living such as downtown San Jose and downtown Palo Alto (and if you prefer to be off the grid, it's got some rural communities as well). But if you're coming from a "proper" big city you should expect a much slower pace here.
The Valley has its charms, however. This is a great place to raise kids thanks to stellar schools and low crime. The Bay offers water sports and the nearby mountains and parklands offer miles of hiking and biking. And for people in the software industry it's hard to turn down a chance to working at cutting edge companies with talented people.
Read on to learn about the basics (housing, transportation, internet, and more!) of moving to Silicon Valley and to find the perfect neighborhood for you.
Silicon Valley is home to some of the safest cities in America, but it does have a few rough spots.
With the exception of a few areas, public transit isn't good here so you'll need a car to get around.
Silicon Valley is a collection of towns and cities spanning more than 40 miles. Find the best neighborhood for you.
While you'll likely need a car here, there are public transit options. Learn more about getting around Silicon Valley.
Figure out which local bank is the right one for you and learn how to open an account.
"Silicon Valley has great weather, safe towns and cities, tons of companies doing interesting work, and a lot of energy from all the brilliant people who come here to work ath these companies. Other cities in the United States may be gaining credibility for their startup scenes, but the Valley is still the statup capital of the world."
Learn about the phases of education, why school district boundaries are important, and different school options in Silicon Valley.
Learn how to navigate healthcare, how to find a great doctor, and see the top Silicon Valley hospitals.