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The Legal and Institutional Foundations of Silicon Valley’s Technological Innovation: An Interdisciplinary Literature Review

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This article reviews interdisciplinary literature to explain how state legislation and the practice of law in California influenced the success of Silicon Valley in creating a startup business culture involving the commercialization of technologies built on venture capital finance. Scholarship has identified four major factors in the rise of Silicon Valley: business culture, symbiotic institutional relations with research universities, California contract and employment law, and Silicon Valley law firm culture. Both law and institutional support have been central to the commercialization of scientific knowledge that is the hallmark of Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley companies have remained leaders in technological innovation for over sixty years, encompassing various technologies from semiconductors to personal computers to the Internet. This entrepreneurial approach to technology continues to this day as exemplified by the successful DoorDash and Airbnb IPOs launched in 2020. The paradigmatic Silicon Valley technology company consists of a small group of entrepreneurs building a start-up technology company funded by a venture capital fund. The venture capitalists (VC) maintain hands-on management of the company and receive seats on the board of director and preferred stock rights. If the business plan is successful, the company offers shares to the public through an initial public offering (IPO), or arranges additional funding from another VC fund. This Silicon Valley model is characterized by a tolerance for failure and high labor mobility. Technology company employees have the freedom to leave established companies to start their own ventures.

About the Author

S. D. Stone
Stanford Law School
United States

Sergio D. Stone, Deputy Director, Robert Crown Law Library

559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, CA 94305


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For citation:

Stone S.D. The Legal and Institutional Foundations of Silicon Valley’s Technological Innovation: An Interdisciplinary Literature Review. Kutafin Law Review. 2021;8(3):472-484.

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