How can Valley boosters encourage this fusion? Hooper says it's already happening. "Get these people talking and recognizing the value of putting pieces of technology together," he says. "That's what we're doing here in the Bay Area in the next revolution."
Perhaps that revolution has already begun. Something is certainly going on. Nanotechnology, a vague term that really refers to companies that, like Quantum Dot, are working at the nanoscale, has fueled a lot of hope. Plenty of folks are cautious about it, though. "I think a lot of people want another bubble," Waitz says."It's almost like they're addicted to the last bubble. And a lot of people are trying to make nano into a bubble."
It may be a sign of the area’s maturity — or simple shell shock — that so much caution, even introspection, is balancing every call for revolution. Silicon Valley is still a chastened place, and that could ensure that sustainable businesses emerge as the area picks up speed. Raffi Amit, the Wharton professor, believes today’s companies are much more careful with the money they raise; they spend it on developing products and services instead of blowing it on expensive brand-building and PR campaigns. “People are a lot more responsible now,” he says. “An important lesson was learned, and that’s why I think this rebound will be a lot more stable and robust.”
One would hope. History hints at a different story, though. The boom-and-bust cycle has repeated itself here over and over. Eric Wheel, an executive recruiter with Princeton Search Group, remembers how VC money for biotech companies dried up in the mid-1990s because investors saw Internet companies as a faster route to riches. That way, investors could skip biotech’s long product-development cycles and drawn-out FDA approvals — and get right to a rich IPO with a dot-com business.
If a new path to quick cash pops up, will the same people fall again? It’s hard to say. What history does make clear is that Silicon Valley is too resilient and adaptable to be counted out. “In the short term, I don’t know. It depends on a bunch of little factors,” says Band of Angels’ Sobieski. “But long term, I’m bullish on America, and bullish on Silicon Valley.”