Big Fish, Small Fish, Where to Fish? On the Eve of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Silicon Valley
Fact box

The name “Silicon Valley” originally became famous as the birthplace of the silicon-based transistor in the 1950s and also referred to the large number of silicon chip innovators and manufacturers in the US, but eventually applied to all of the tech companies in the area.

The list of cities, towns, and neighbourhoods that make up Silicon Valley is notoriously vague, but the most prominent ones are Campbell, Cupertino, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Fremont, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Menlo Park, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Mountain View, Morgan Hill, Newark, Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Jose, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Saratoga, Scotts Valley, Sunnyvale and Union City.

In the 1930s and 1940s, US Navy had a base near SanFrancisco and the neighbouring area became a centre for the development of radio and aerospace technology. In later years, Stanford professor Frederick Terman encouraged the university to lease some of its property to high-tech corporations, creating what was called the Stanford Industrial Park. Eastman Kodak and General Electric opened their offices their and other companies followed them.

Eszter Szabó

About Eszter Szabó

Eszter Szabó is a Corporate Communications, Public Affairs & Government Relations Executive with over 15 years of experience in CEE — GE and in the government. She is a council member of the Economic Forum of the Foundation Institute for Eastern Studies. She is a businesswoman, an economist and honorary professor of BGF, the leading business school in Hungary. She is a promoter of Central Europe’s huge potential in the global context. Twitter @eszterforcee

Silicon Valley is an almost mythical synonym for the home, in the minds of virtually everyone, to many of the world’s largest high-tech corporations and thousands of start-up companies. It has grown into an unprecedented economic powerhouse the size of which is well worth investigating.

Have you ever thought about the fact that Facebook, with its more than 1. 5 billion users, reaches more people than the population of any country on earth? Did you know that 20 per cent of the S&P 500 Index’s companies that are connected to the consumer internet did not even exist 20 years ago? Companies from all over the world are looking to set up shop in this southern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area to show they’re successful and part of the tech-crowd; to boast about their own technology cluster which gives birth to new international giants.

This same desire is shared by some visionary businesses and officials across Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). While a handful of companies that originated from this region have already set up operations in the actual Silicon Valley, it is still impossible today to find an area anywhere in Central and Eastern Europe that would be considered close to ‘the Valley’. There have been too many plans but no one seems to realise that it took 60 years to build the Silicon Valley in California, as we know it now, and the seed money came from the tax payers’ purse. Why? It was because the US wanted to have an alternative to phone connections during the Cold War. That is what later became the web and the internet.

Today’s strategically thinking business CEOs, who are in based in the CEE, continue to stress the need to set up a new vision for the heart of Europe which they want to communicate to their global leadership. How about adding digital innovation to the CEE’s proven status as Europe’s strongest manufacturing hub for global markets? It would definitely give its growth a much needed boost and would help the manufacturing-based economy to survive in the tectonic changes that are happening today.

Based on my own personal experience with the eighth company on the Fortune 500 list, this would be a possible direction for the region. It could build a strategic relationship with the stakeholders in the Valley for scale, efficiency, a stronger voice and increased bargaining power. Companies who originated from the CEE would also benefit from a better general understanding of the comparative advantages and competencies that this region and its individual countries have to offer.

Today, they have to break the ice there one by one. One sign of hope was the promising attempt to set up the Visegrád Group (V4) in the Valley during the Slovak presidency of 2015. The question is how to continue with home grown start-ups and a whether a bigger game is possible beyond merely helping start-ups there. You might ask why I keep stressing the importance of a regional approach to the Silicon Valley. It is because alliances and size matter on both sides.

Surviving Strategies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

In my recent month-long visit to the magic triangle: Los Altos, Mountain View and Palo Alto, California I had two goals: to learn more about how the world’s digital innovation powerhouses operate and to find a fresh approach for connecting one of Europe’s most important manufacturing hub to it. As we know, the Valley has played a major role in pushing out a total change in people’s (consumers’) lives.

In so doing, they have rocked whole sectors in B2C and are continuing this shake up with the digitisation of the industrial sector. The process will bring a massive reshuffle to the B2B part of the economy. The founder of the World Economic Forum has issued a warning that action needs to be taken: ’Now a fourth industrial revolution is building on the third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

The whole Old Continent has played a passive role — serving as a market only— during the third industrial revolution so far, a point highlighted by GE’s chief economist, Marco Annunziata, three years ago, at an international multi-stakeholder debate on the industrial internet in London.

Can CEE alter this passive role with an active partnership and combined geographic strategy with the Silicon Valley in the future? We must do, if we want to accelerate the development of CEE and ensure it is able to compete during the fourth industrial revolution. As a Central European politician said, if you are not at the table you might be served as the dinner. This applies to businesses and regions as well. A key factor in taking an active part would be to create a meeting point for CEE actors, to help to build alliances in the Silicon Valley: This is where the big fish (and the small ones) who have been cooking the global economy of the 21st century are to be found in their greatest number in the world.

How About a CEE Platform? Or should we call it launch pad? Currently, the Czech Republic is the president of V4 and Poland will take over in the autumn. The question remains open: who will pull a strategic CEE platform together in the Valley to encourage the other four members, and beyond, to act together? Shall we just keep talking, about a need for an action?

CEE as an Active Player

Unfortunately, no one can change the CEE’s status from that of a market to that of an active player in the fourth digital revolution, alone. Firstly we need to weave nets and start to go fishing.


(photo: the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, taken by Eszter Szabó)


The views expressed in this opinion editorial are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Emerging Europe’s editorial policy.



‘Traditional Values’: A Potent Weapon Against LGBT Rights

gay rights putin

Poland’s Capital Saturation Lower Than the Czech Republic’s

deloitte fdi poland

Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Moves from Frozen to Kinetic


Resignation in Ukraine: War, Revolution, Crisis — Some Things Never Change

Why is Armenia Borrowing Another 100 Million US Dollars From Russia?

Emphasising the Incongruence Between the V4 Countries

Macron emerging europe

Will Poland Leave the European Union?


Ukraine’s Reputation for Cheap Labour May Not Ring True in the Long-term

Changing Perspectives and Showing That True Romania is a Vibrant Innovative Country

Moldova’s Briefly Suspended President is Still in Business

chisinau moldova parliament

European Volatility Makes Economic Development Slower for Ukraine

2018 Elections — Vital Decisions for Hungary’s Future

Victor Orban energing europe

Global Expansion in the Digital Age

Romania Surviving the Waves of Recent Political Tsunamis in Europe

People Power Reminds the Government of the Rule of Law

January Kicks Off an Exciting Year for Emerging Europe

EU-CEE Is Still Growing at a Healthy Rate

Prague emerging europe

The EU’s Benign Neglect Of Eastern Europe

Why Emerging Europe is the New Darling of Outsourcing

outsourcing Developing programming and coding technologies. Website design. Cyber space concept.

Why Was Zapad-2017 So Important?

russian tank belarus zapad

Prepare for a New Europe

Poland’s Confusing GDP Growth

Poland’s Unicorn, Slovakia’s Flying Car and the Future of Europe

Will a Two-speed European Union Side-line the Visegrad Four?

EU Visa-Liberalisation Strengthens Georgia’s Pro-Western Path

georgia emerging europe eu

Under Promise, Over Deliver: Prospects for the EU’s Eastern Partnership in 2018

Eastern partnership

Regional Relations in the Western Balkans: Moving Beyond Folklore

Bosnia and Herzegovina flag with Serbia flag, 3D rendering

Examining How a Strong Swiss Franc Could Single-Handedly Topple Poland’s Economy

Impact of Brexit on EU-CEE Not Overstated

theresa may brexit

The EU’s Choice: Fundamental Reform Or Disintegration

Assaults on the Judiciary: How CEE Governments Are Trying to Restrict Judicial Independence, and Why It’s Not Working… For Now

poland romania justice system

The Voice of European Business Must Be Heard Loud and Clear by Brexit Negotiators

Is the Level of Foreign Ownership a Problem in Emerging Europe?

Flags of European countries flying from their capital cities. Viewed from the South.

Why the Baltic States Should Reject the Nanny State

man smoking a cigarette Cigarette smoking Cigarette with smoke

The Right to Water: Who Can Change Today’s Situation?

Serbia’s New PM Is Cut From a Familiar Cloth

Serbian flag emerging europe

Poland Needs to Cling to the Eurozone

zloty euro emerging europe

Can Armenia Keep a Foot in Both Camps?

European union armenia russia emerging europe

Finalising the DCFTA is Expected to Bring Multiple Benefits to Ukraine

Euroscepticism in Serbia: An Image Problem?

A New Division Between Eastern And Western Europe?

The Global Outsourcing Industry — the Rise of the Phoenix

The Competitive Edge in Central and Eastern Europe

SOFIA BULGARIA - MAY 5: View of the Ivan Vazov National Theatre in Sofia on May 5 2016. Sofia is the largest city and capital of Bulgaria.

Visegrád Divided


History as Destiny? Institutional Erosion in Ukraine and Poland

Measuring Growth of Societies with GDP Alone Shows an Incomplete Picture

Old Fashioned Skulduggery Overshadows the Elections in Moldova

After 25 Years of Restructuring, the Romanian Power Sector Is at a Crossroad

PiS Uses Media Control to Bring Poland to Heel

Jaroslaw kaczynski pis emerging europe

Czech Republic Renaming Has Real Economic Costs

Europe at Odds over OPAL and Nord Stream 2

Are Czech-EU Relations at Breaking Point?

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - 21 JUNE 2014: People on the streets of Prague, Czech Republic. Prague is one of the most visited city in Europe with over 5 million visitors every year.

Poland Challenges the European Identity

Poland emerging europe

Polish Tax Laws — Fighting a Winning Battle Against Tax Evaders

Let’s Stop Wasting Time Redefining our Place in Europe

Czech Own Currency Insures Against Euro Losses

Euro Czech republic emerging europe

What Went Wrong in Ukraine – And When?

The Netherlands’ Objection to the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement could be Costly to Europe

Next Christmas in Belgrade? The EU’s Move into the Western Balkans

Belgrade, Serbia, July 22, 2017.Belgrade cityscape at sunset with national assembly, aerial view

Belarus 2020: Turning the Vicious Circle Into an Upward Spiral

United or Divided? Europe in the Face of the Challenges of Tomorrow

E-lifestyle and Cyber Security: Some Views From Estonia

Cyber Security Protection Firewall Interface Concept

How Will Poland Approach the Brexit Negotiations?

A Bosnian Referendum Shows Russia’s Influence in the Balkans—As Well As Its Limits

Brexit: Let’s Learn the Lesson and Hope a Better Europe Will Arise

The Capital Markets Union: a New Beginning in the European Financial Sector?

Budapest and Warsaw: Marriage of Convenience or Union of Values?

Azerbaijan: The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Nothing


CEE — Do We Need a Launch Pad For Our On-Site Tech Intelligence in the Silicon Valley

Emerging Europe Back on Track to Convergence


Where’s My Cheese? – The GREAT British Food Tour 2014

Cheese Shop

Poland’s Drift Away From Democracy

Efficient Innovation: Entrepreneurship in Bulgaria

Beautiful photos of modern buildings under blue sky. Europe, Bulgaria, Sofia.

Is there any prospect of ‘Polexit’?

poland european union polexit

Partnership is the Key to CEE-Indian Business

Ukraine’s Economic Recovery: Good, But Slow

ukraine money

Hungary and Israel: the Collision of Past and Present

Budapest synagoge

After Its Significant Rise the Georgian Economy May Now Fall

Panorama of Tbilisi, Georgia in sunset rays. Vivid, saturated, splittoned image.

Poland Must Preserve Wilson Spirit

Is the CEE Region About to Steal the Outsourcing Crown From India?

Amazing view on the Taj Mahal in sunset light with reflection in water. The Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river. Agra Uttar Pradesh India.

Moldova Falls Victim to Politicising

moldova emerging europe

How strong is V4?

Viktor Orban

Swimpassing Dniester Without Prejudice To Democracy

Parliament of the republic of moldova in chisinau, national flag, stefan cel mare street, spring time with blue sky

When Neutrality Isn’t an Option

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin

Political Tensions Rise As Croatia Allegedly Breaks the Dublin III Refugee Regulation

croatia migrants

Slovenia’s Presidential Election: Pahor Expected to Romp Home

Slovenia flag against blue sky waving in wind

Adam Smith’s Warning for Poland

Not All Quiet on the Eastern Front

Breaking With Imitations of the Past

The Morawiecki Plan Promises a Brighter Future for Poland

The Socialism of Central Europe’s Populists

MARSEILLE FRANCE - JUNE 21 2016: People watch football match at Tribunes of Stade Velodrome during UEFA EURO 2016 game Ukraine v Poland

Will the New Five-day Visa-free Regime Encourage More Visitors to Belarus?

The GREAT London Food Scene

Bakery in London

Why Hungary’s New NGO Law Is Harmful for Business

Budapest, Hungary. Aerial view of the old city Budapest, Hungary with river and Parliament Building with cloudy blue sky

Belarusian Journalists Still Face Huge Problems

We, the Post-Communist Generation, Have the Skills to Rid of the Past And Create Our Own Future

Bulgaria Needs a Reform-Oriented Government to Take Full Advantage of its EU Membership

bulgaria emerging europe

China and Central Europe: Don’t Believe the Hype


LGBT in CEE — A New Acceptance Is Being Born From Migration

Ex-Transition Economies’ FDI Recovery

dollar euro fdi

Central and Eastern European Consumers Are Joining the Global Trends for Change

Stuck in Neutral: Georgia’s Constitutional Reforms

Tbilisi Parliament Georgia

China: A Giant That Is Hard to Crack

Falling into Old Ways in 2017? Ukraine’s Struggle for Functioning Economic Institutions

The Peculiar Growth of Poland

KRAKOW POLAND - JUNE 2017: logo of Galeria Krakowska shopping center.

Could the West At Least Help Ukraine To Insure FDI Against Political Risks?

The Long Tail of Global Expansion

A Positive and Modern View of Entrepreneurship

Outsourcing in Germany: Stop Talking at and Start Talking to

The Sharing Economy Could Bring New Business Models to CEE

Good Match But Unlikely Marriage

Fiscal Policy Predictability in CEE — It’s Time for Change

The CEE Region Is Making Advances in Prioritising Waste-to-Energy Projects

CEE: Innovate or Get Eaten


Are There Differences Between How Tax Regulations in Poland and IAS Treat Intangible Assets?

Poland: Is it Ready, and is it Time to Adopt the Euro?

Romania Can Still Provide Stability Within the EU

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA - 05 February 2017: More than 240,000 protesters in Victory Square (Piata Victoriei). "Torches" moment. At 09:00PM Romanian protesters shone torches on their phones.

Are Labour Shortages Driving Economic Growth?

Hungary’s Nationalist Assault on Free Enquiry

victor orban ceu

International Women’s Day — Let’s Take Action And Then Celebrate

CEE-Benefits and Disadvantages of Joining the Eurozone

forint zloty euro

Only a United Opposition Can Defeat Poland’s Ruling Law and Justice Party

Classical building of Polish parliament. Warsaw in Poland.

How Will Trump’s Visit Affect Polish Politics?

Donald trump

Defending EU Values in Poland and Hungary

Eu hungary poland

Business Moving Forward with Cautious Optimism — Can Investors Win the Confidence Game?

Europe Needs To Be More Proactive In Embracing Armenia

Macedonia’s Controversial Coalition Government

SKOPJE MACEDONIA emerging europe

Albania’s Election Apathy

tirana albania

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *