Marc Andreessen, co-author of the first widely used web browser, wants to turn Detroit into “Drone Valley.” He's not exactly calling for the city's factories to be turned over to the production of unmanned aerial vehicles, but rather that the city be designated a region free of regulatory hurdles that limit UAV innovation elsewhere. Similarly, he argues for a Driverless Car Valley, with roadway designs and regulations amenable to autonomous automobiles. And he proposes a Bitcoin Valley, with fully legal cryptocurrency transactions.
Andreessen, co-founder of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, makes these proposals in an article in Politico. His approach is preferable, he says, because the traditional recipe for copying Silicon Valley doesn't really work. That recipe involves building a technology park, mixing in universities and labs, providing financial incentives, establishing industry consortia and supply chains, protecting intellectual property, and establishing a favorable business climate.
But such a top-down approach often fails to draw people, he writes, adding that instead of trying to copy Silicon Valley, policymakers should determine what specific domain would be appropriate for their region. He writes “…we don't want 50 Silicon Valleys; we want 50 different variations of Silicon Valley, all unique from each other and all focusing on different domains.” The result would be regulatory competition between city, state, and national governments.
He doesn't overlook the risks of what he calls regulatory arbitrage, but notes that regulations are often in place to protect incumbent business interests rather than public safety. He says his approach is already working in places such as commercial-drone regulation-friendly Brazil.
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