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August 9, 2013 at 12:07 PM

Jeff Bezos is not a ‘Silicon Valley entrepreneur’

A funny thing happened on Jeff Bezos’ way to buying the Washington Post: He apparently moved 840 miles south.

News coverage of the Post sale described Bezos, who lives in Medina, as a “Silicon Valley entrepreneur” (see MSNBC’s Hardball, the National Journalthe Guardian, and just today in the Economist, and others). By that measure of lazy geography, it would be fair to describe the Washington Post as a St. Louis, Mo., newspaper (roughly 820 miles away). How about if we call the New York-based MSNBC an Atlanta company (864 miles)?

Jeff Bezos: Not from Silicon Valley (John Lok / The Seattle Times)

Our self-regard for the splendor of Seattle gets easily prickled by such slights, real or perceived. We’re way out in the mossy edge, easy to overlook.

But Seattle has a claim to being a special place, especially in tech. The Atlantic ranked Seattle last year as the leading high-tech metro in the country, as Andy Meek of Time magazine noted in his critique of this gaffe. John Cook of Geekwire also took offense. Silicon Valley may be easy short-hand for tech wealth to New York or Washington D.C.-based journalists, but it’s inaccurate. Consider the provincial umbrage taken if, say, New York’s Williamsburg neighborhood was mistaken for Staten Island?

A few distinctions between Seattle and Silicon Valley:

  • Seattle has fewer soul patches.
  • We’re a city, not a chain of suburbs in the South Bay.
  • Houses are affordable in Seattle, sort of.
  • Rain or fog? Pick your poison.
  • Amazon.com is in Seattle.

Bezos purposely picked Seattle “in part because Washington’s relatively small population effectively would leave more Amazon sales untaxed,” the Seattle Times reported last year in its investigative series on the company. And he has no intention of leaving, as he told the Post staff. “I am happily living in ‘the other Washington’ where I have a day job that I love,” he wrote.

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