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Jeff Bezos portrait
Jeff Bezos

Maybe I am splitting hairs here, or quibbling over something that really doesn’t matter. But, I’ve got to just say it: Am I the only one who gets annoyed when folks refer to the giants of the Seattle tech community as part of the mythological Silicon Valley ecosystem?

It happens often, especially when big news stories break, like the one yesterday when Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos announced that he had purchased The Washington Post for $250 million.

The Silicon Valley comparisons and remarks appeared with the regularity of food trucks in South Lake Union.

For example, here’s what Emily Bell at The Guardian had to say on the matter:

“A great American institution is bought by an internet entrepreneur, part of a Silicon Valley elite, whose rocket-ship ride to stratospheric wealth has coincided with the implosion of the galaxy of influential brands born before the era of the microprocessor.”

Bell continues:

“Bezos is more personally successful in Silicon Valley than most of his peers, with a fortune of $28bn, but from a background that has brushed more with the world outside Palo Alto.”

I am not the only one pointing out that folks are playing fast and loose with their geography:

Meanwhile, here’s the take from Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, who purchased the New Republic last year, in his publication:

It turns out Silicon Valley does give a damn about Washington. With Jeff Bezos’s purchase of the Washington Post and the efforts of Mark Zuckerberg’s FWD.us, the Internet’s enormous riches are showing up on the doorstep of Washington’s elites.

Meanwhile, Politico’s Dylan Byers actually made proper reference to Bezos being based in Seattle, but his column, titled Silicon Valley East, is laced with references to the Valley in order to back up his point.

Given that upstarts like Hughes and Bezos can buy venerable media publications for a mere fraction of their wealth, its tempting to see Silicon Valley as the top dog in the East-West relationship — to interpret such acquisitions almost as a favor for us poor Beltway saps who can only dream of California’s golden shores.

(Or, Seattle’s white-capped mountains).

I understand why journalists and writers make this leap. Some see Silicon Valley not so much a geographic location as a state of being, especially those from the East Coast or Europe. Any successful tech entrepreneur, in this view, whether from Denver or Des Moines, is part of the Silicon Valley elite.

But is Tumblr’s David Karp part of the Silicon Valley digital elite? Or what about Michael Dell?

It just seems that Seattle — the distant mossy land in the Northwest corner of the country — sometimes gets lumped in as another Silicon Valley suburb along the lines of Mountain View or Cupertino.

As I said, it’s not the worst thing in the world. And Zillow co-founder Rich Barton notes that we here in Seattle need to embrace our “little brother” status when it comes to Silicon Valley, using it as strategic weapon to elevate the tech community.

I agree. I just wish folks would brush up on their geography a bit, and listen to what Bezos actually wrote in his memo to Washington Post staffers.

“I won’t be leading The Washington Post day-to-day,” he said. “I am happily living in “the other Washington” where I have a day job that I love.”

And, just so people know, that’s Seattle, Washington.

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