Startups: June 2009 Archives

My bet is that the nexus of all the innovation is still here in Silicon Valley.  Many attempts have been made to replicate the environment and echo the systems that most people believe make and keep Silicon Valley at the front of the pack. We are still number one.

In addition to environment and systems, there is another ingredient that is uniquely optimized in Silicon Valley that is very difficult to replicate and keeps us resilient. It is not a thing, or a defined resource; it is a mindset and the principals associated with it.

I believe a huge contributing factor is the Valley's generous permission for entrepreneurs to fail. It's okay if you fail - dust yourself off and try again - failing is good.  Lessons learned from failure have immeasurable impact. Often we hear about how lives have turned around after a failure or major setback in life.  It is very common to see investors writing checks to entrepreneurs who have tried and failed in the past. In most countries and other states, failure is strongly associated with shame and even sometime exploited by others for false self-assurance.  Not here. The most recommended advise to entrepreneurs is to "fail fast and often". Innovation doesn't happen according to plans and on a predictable schedule.  Pushing limits and exploring the world of new possibilities is by definition built on risk taking.

Another example is the supportive attitude that exists among the inner circles of entrepreneurs and investors the Valley. This attitude is founded on a mindset of abundance rather than one of scarcity. People want to help, and they do - people and groups are cooperative and collaborative; they are not attached to the practice of keeping each and every opportunity for themselves as often occurs elsewhere. In Silicon Valley people want to "expand the pie" instead of hoarding their pieces and keeping them isolated and covered by fear of loss.

I commonly experience that once entrepreneurs step into a venture fully (I mean all the way), with passion, belief and conviction of their ability to achieve it, they attract help. Others are inspired and their innate desire to contribute for the sake of contribution, rather than for the expectation of personal gain; that special mindset of "go for it and how may I help" that is uniquely optimized in the Valley manifest itself.

So much to do; so little time! I, for one, am grateful to be doing it here.

During the Internet boom about 10 years ago, when all kinds of web sites and products were created daily, the story went something like this: "Silicon Valley will lose its hold as the hub of technology innovation because products and teams are now virtually working together leveraging the huge new marketplace called the WWW.  You can do anything via the web including selling anything anyone wants and delivering it to where they want it..." Then, as we all know, the bubble burst and reality set in. The story changed to something like, "Not so fast".

Despite the painful-for-many "dot com crash", less than 3 years later, Silicon Valley emerged strong again, touting web 2.0 and all the cool new ways we may use the internet to communicate, socialize and make life easier.  Personal and professional blogs spread wild and fast, giving birth to all types of social and business networks.

Then came the financial and credit market bubble that had a much larger blast radius when it burst in September of '08, than did the "dot com crash". This bubble was not only larger, it was also inflated by brick and mortar. When it burst, the blast caused bigger and more serious damage and injury than before.

Now, as the dust might be settling a bit, we still have only a limited vision of the future of the economy. How long will the downturn last and what will really come next?  Who really knows?

Here in Silicon Valley, we're feeling the pain of failed and weakened financial markets rippling through every other business. Many of us have witnessed, if not participated in, evolving ideas and plans drawn on a napkin, to the creation of life changing products that grew into multi-billion dollar industries in few short years. We are inventors, problem solvers and creators of things that delight, please, amuse and make other things work better.  So, how and where do we ease or eliminate the pain and find the opportunities? The answer is almost everywhere - banking, healthcare, environment, transportation, infrastructure, energy, etc.

In the past few months I have seen a huge entrepreneurial rush to find solutions, fix problems and build smoother and better wheels on which to run the economy.  I don't know where is it coming from, but I'm guessing repeating the "Yes We Can" mantra in the back of our heads is a huge influence.

I believe that we now have tremendous growth opportunities; success is to be had for the taking.  Maybe we're at this stage because we have acknowledged that we're in a deep hole and can't keep pretending all is well and good.  Maybe it is because we now see that yesterday's economic mechanisms and ways of thinking are bad foundations. The first step to solve a problem is to acknowledge it and then define it. We are now here at this first couple of steps and we have a lot to do. The voice in my head says, "Whatever must be done, it is worth it."

There are ground floor opportunities to create solutions, eliminate pain points and innovate new services to improve lives etc.  In many ways, largely because of the Internet, these solutions don't cost the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars once needed to build a company. I see a lot of funds and fund managers creating new businesses themselves under different titles - angel investors, seed VCs, even Facebook Fund and Google Fund, and many special incubators, and countless others with specific focus on financing the very early-stage ventures.

Whatever the names, they are basically driven by cash heavy individuals who are motivated by great ideas and by entrepreneurs with big dreams and bold visions. More often than not, the investors are investing purely in the passionate persons who are crazy enough to think they want to change the world, because here, they can.

If you're one of those people, please join us.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Startups category from June 2009.

Startups: May 2009 is the previous archive.

Startups: September 2009 is the next archive.

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