Just south of San Francisco lies a region that has spawned not just new products but whole new industries, from vacuum tubes to radio, microchips to personal computers, mobile devices, apps and social media. Home to Apple and Facebook, Intel and Google, there is simply no other place on earth that can rival its remarkable record of innovation. A new Science Channel three-part documentary series will provide a comprehensive look at the century-and-a-half history of this fascinating place, and reveal how and why it became such a fertile ground for technological breakthroughs. SILICON VALLEY: THE UNTOLD STORY premieres Sunday, January 28 at 8, 9 and 10 p.m. It is produced with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA is serving as the community and education outreach partner on the series.
Silicon Valley has been often imitated but never duplicated. This new series encompasses a much broader story—one that is largely untold. It includes interviews with some of the Valley’s most prominent innovators – including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak – who helped make the region what it is today, and the tech entrepreneurs – WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum among them – who are leading the Valley into the future. Koum, who grew up on food stamps and later sold WhatsApp to Facebook for $19 billion, says that “I could not have built WhatsApp outside of Silicon Valley—no chance.”
While Silicon Valley prides itself on disrupting old ways of doing things, it has largely failed to dismantle its barriers to women. Women have long been excluded from the valley’s top jobs, even though they’ve been essential to its history. Kim Polese, a leading Silicon Valley entrepreneur and innovator, and currently chairman of CrowdSmart, and Heidi Roizen, a venture capitalist, corporate director and entrepreneur who co-founded the software company T/Maker, both relay stories about the challenges that women have faced in the Valley.
Other industry leaders featured in SILICON VALLEY: THE UNTOLD STORY include Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell, who turned down an offer from his former employee Steve Jobs, to become a one-third partner of Apple for $50,000; Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, who helps explain what made Google so much better than other early search engines; and Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim, who reminisces about his first encounter with Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page and explains why he wrote them a check for $100,000 on the spot, before the company even had a name. Page and Brin currently have a combined net worth of nearly $100 billion.
SILICON VALLEY: THE UNTOLD STORY also includes interviews with Y-Combinator founders Paul Graham and Jessica Livingston; who granted the producers rare access to their prestigious boot camp for entrepreneurs; Kyle Vogt, whose 4-person self-driving car startup was bought by General Motors for $1 billion; Intel co-founder Gordon Moore; as well as historians and journalists including John Markoff, who covered the tech industry for The New York Times; Margaret O’Mara of the University of Washington; Michael Malone, who has written numerous books about Silicon Valley;, and Stanford University historian Leslie Berlin.
“Silicon Valley has shaped the world we live in today like no other place,” said Marc Etkind, General Manager of Science Channel. “It is a story about science, technology and invention—and how all the right ingredients came together to create a game changing atmosphere of unparalleled innovation.”
“We are delighted to support Kikim Media and the Science Channel in presenting this timely chronicle of the intellectual, cultural and technological history of Silicon Valley and how it has continued to function as an engine of innovation across multiple domains for more than a century,“ said Doron Weber, Vice President and Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “Shining a light on the underappreciated role of government funding and research universities and their interaction with the individual entrepreneur, this expertly produced, 3-part series makes for a fascinating and provocative journey.”
The first hour of SILICON VALLEY: THE UNTOLD STORY explores the unique mix of ingredients—the secret sauce—that fueled the Valley’s rise to becoming the world’s technological and economic powerhouse. The second hour examines the forces—including government and military funding, and the rise of venture capital—that have made the Valley a magnet for innovators from all over the world. And the third hour charts the circuitous paths and lucky accidents that lie behind some of the Valley’s greatest success stories, and reveals that even in a place celebrated for inventing the future, no one can reliably predict it.
SILICON VALLEY: THE UNTOLD STORY is produced by Kikim Media for Science Channel with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Kikim Media’s Executive Producer is Kiki Kapany. The series is produced by Michael Schwarz and Edward Gray and directed by Michael Schwarz. Jon Bardin is Executive Producer for Science Channel.