By James Santagata
Principal Consultant, SiliconEdge
It seems like the peddling of the old standby Myths & Memes is on the rise once again in the Valley. As this is often a lagging indicator of both the Valley's, and even the wider Tech Industry's financial state, it tells me that we're in a very frothy if not overheated market since people are now letting their hair down and apparently gleefully throwing themselves onto the politically correct bandwagon. But they should be careful, lest they find themselves thrown beneath it.
Still, it's my guess that whatever problems or disasters may rear their ugly heads in the future due to blind belief and adherence to these Myths & Memes, the folks most involved are betting that they'll be able to quickly paper over it with the waves and waves of cash that are flowing so freely now.
But not everyone believed let alone followed these Myths and Memes and amazingly, they didn't fail or turn into a pumpkin or a toad.
What a perfect example of a person who broke every one of these Myths and Memes?
Try Steve Jobs. Yep, Steve Jobs. And Apple Computer under his guidance during his second tour of duty.
The fact is, no one can deny that, under Steve Jobs, Apple was a smashing success. All the metrics are there: market cap, profits, amazing hit product after hit product. iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone. You name it.
And for the record, I am by no means an Apple fan nor am I a Steve Jobs / Apple Computer apologist. I'm simply a reality-based thinker and I call it the way it is, not the way I wish it were.
That said, I'm a very serious student of Steve Jobs and I'm not afraid to look at what really made him successful. I can tell you, it wasn't following the Valley Myth and Memes and it wasn't being politically correct.
In fact, Steve Jobs did the exact opposite of what most pundits and social engineers are preaching. And the reason it worked for Steve Jobs is because Steve Jobs and his communication style was perfectly aligned with the way the world and humans work.
What is most interesting, though perhaps very disconcerting to the social engineers among us, is how Steve Jobs did it.
We're told that if a person studies hard at the "right" schools, gets a "good" education and makes the "right" connections they'll be well positioned for success.
Beyond that we are told, especially in the Valley, that an organization will perform best when it is openly transparent (both internally and externally), when there is diversity, when there are women in senior leadership positions and when we have an open environment of respect and perhaps kumbayahism in the office.
Going even further, we are told that we should be investing and building all kinds of new tech that people have never seen. And by "new tech" I mean core tech, not making sexy cases, new form factors or tinkering with some incremental derivative product like the iPod.
And yet, if we look at Steve Jobs and his management style during his absolutely, amazing and record smashing second run we find something that is completely at odds with what the pundits say is necessary for success:
1. No diversity at Apple (as defined by the politically correct sense of skin pigmentation / reproductive organs).
2. No women in senior leadership positions (see also: Apple Vows To Find Women & Minorities For Board Directors).
3. No Indians in senior leadership positions (see: Why Indian presence in Apple's senior management level is next to nil).
4. Few minorities (see: Apple Facing Criticism About Diversity Changes Bylaws).
5. Steve Jobs didn't go to a "top" university.
6. Steve Jobs didn't even graduate from a four-year college.
7. Steve Jobs was not transparent. At best, he could be characterized as a benevolent dictator, at worst a tyrant.
8. Jobs/Apple was not open -- you leak new Apple products, you'd be hunted down & sued (see: Apple Sues To Stop Product Leaks).
9 Jobs/Apple could be downright nasty, even engaging in potentially illegal activity, if the "no poach" collusion allegations are borne out.
10. Steve Jobs even used his money to find a loophole in California vehicle code so that he wouldn't have to get license plates and had an apparent penchant for parking in the handicap spaces.
And yet again, while Steve Jobs just turned a blind eye to all of these supposed business and organizational "requirements" his results were phenomenal. Can we in any way argue with Steve Jobs' success? It seems that few prominent members of the Valley tech community question his success so I guess not.
Next time, we'll dig a bit deeper and explore why Steve Jobs was so successful, time and time again. The results may surprise you.
Lastly, as quick exercise, we should ask ourselves is Apple really lacking diversity? Or is and has Apple always been diverse but in a more mature manner, such as defining "diversity" with regard to value, thought patterns and productivity rather than with regard to skin pigments and reproductive organs?.
It can easily be argued that a man and women studying the same subject matter from Princeton (not to pick on any school) will be more alike than two men, one of which studied electrical engineering and the other who studied marketing at two different schools in two different states or countries.
Think about it.
By James Santagata
Principal Consultant, SiliconEdge
“Core competencies are different for every organization. But every organization needs one core competence: innovation.”
- Peter Drucker
By James Santagata
Principal Consultant, SiliconEdge
Coming across entitled, "Foreign startups in Silicon Valley still a rarity" I immediately asked myself two questions:
a. Why is that? (first thought: money & visas)
b. Does it even matter to be in the Valley now?
I first moved to the Valley at the end of January, 1995 and although it seems like yesterday I'm still amazed to see how far both the internet and technology in general have come in terms of their capability and diffusion into our society. For instance, while many newspapers at ground zero of the dot com boom, such as the San Jose Mercury News, used to worry and fret about the so-called "digital divide", we see how misguided those worries were as even the Bloods and Crips have made great use of Facebook, Twitter and other online media and communication services.
The fact is, these once nascent and intriguing technologies have now become deeply embedded in our daily existence to the very point that although we rely on them for the most mundane tasks, they have effectively become invisible to us. In fact, they only time we do notice the technology that we've come to rely on is when it fails to work or breaks such as during a blackout.
Over the last 18 to 20 years (and especially in the last 7 years) the skills and knowledge need to quickly and cost effectively build and mass produce these technologies and tools have now become all but common place. Moreover the amount of computing power (and bandwidth) we have stuffed into just our smart phones is mind boggling as is the ability to buy right off the shelf parts and services of most of the things we need to create just about any product or business and to do so immediately.
We are now longer concerned with the theory or possibility behind building a router or the design and development of a packet switched (rather than circuit based) networks. It's done and proven. Similarly, IPTV is no longer a dream but a reality.
I could go on and on but I won't bore you.
Beyond core technology, the Valley has grown and matured in the knowledge, processes, skills and resources needed to not only build a product but to launch a company and to make it successful (although, often times, the Valley still greatly struggles with market-based productization and ultimately the monetization of the product. These two sticking points, by the way, provide huge opportunities for the next generation of entrepreneurs to focus on.
It's again hard to believe, but much of this was only possible in the late 1990's and again in the mid 2000's. First, we had the explosion of open source software, from Linux to MySql to Perl to PHP to Python and beyond with various applications available to all. This was coupled with the continuing march forward of technology-price improvements where the price point of servers, routers, SANs and bandwidth plummeted as the power, stability, ease of use and ubiquity rocketed upward. The knowledge of how to set these up and admin them diffused as well -- from the US and Western developed countries into developing countries and even as far as to the pimply-faced high-school kid across the street who could setup or administer your Linux server. This helped pushed the total cost of ownership (TCO) of these technologies down even further, and making them even more ubiquitous and more intertwined in our lives, whether we knew it or not.
This continued after the Dot Com Boom (or Dot Com Crash depending on your point of view), however, around 2005 and 2006 something else happened. We began to see huge improvements in both the knowledge, formation and management of startups and venture capital investments. Once opaque and arcane industries, terms and activities such as the VC industry, the meaning of the terms on a term sheet (such as a liquidity preference or cramdown) as well as the funding raising process itself become transparent, almost overnight!.
What was once at best, Tribal Knowledge regarding the startup process and how best to anticipate and overcome common obstacles and business threats soon became openly discussed, then codified and finally shared widely to the point that by reading perhaps 15 bloggers in a variety of thematic areas as well as perhaps 30 additional books, a fairly intelligent person running a startup or looking to launch a startup could go from Newbie to low-level Sage in a matter of 3 to 6 months.
With all of these aforementioned changes as well as the codification and diffusion of knowledge it begins to beg the question, "Is being in Silicon Valley even important anymore?"
I would say it was 10 years ago. The knowledge, what there was of it, was very silo-ed as well as tribal and often very anecdotal in nature.
But now with all of the knowledge, mentors, books, forms, templates and so on I question that. Further, most of the "tech pain" and "tech risk" has been taken out of the equation.
No longer do you need to rent some space at some sketchy colo at a former bomb shelter in San Jose or Mountain View where you need to provision your own rack and where you rack is separated from the next customer's rack by some chicken wire (anyone remember Best Internet on Winchester Blvd that sported the chicken wire colo cages?)
Heck, you no longer even have to physically be there. Better yet, provisioning happens at the click of a button and almost immediately. And with cloud-based services like Amazon's AWS, scalability isn't a problem either. Only the cash to pay for it.
In effect, so many of these startups are post-tech. Sure, these startups use tech, just as KFC, Walmart or UPS does, but those firms aren't tech firms either. Even vaunted Silicon Valley startups like Airbnb and Uber aren't tech firms. Netflix may be now that it's streaming media, but before that, it was a mail order rental house for DVDs. And what about Groupon? Is that a tech play?
Now of this makes any of these startups "less" or "more" of a startup as it is simply a reality of where the startup world is today.
So why should you be in the Valley?
Well, some people will do it just for a challenge -- you won't find a more concentrated community of super-switched on, open-minded, openly-sharing people anywhere. Sure there are great communities like it everywhere, but not at the scale that the Valley offers.
In some cases, it's critical to see, learn and reset yourself to what "Valley time" really means. A crushing rush forward. Sure, you can do that anywhere, in any city in the world, but you'll be looked at as "weird". And it's fantastic to benchmark yourself against other world-class competitors.
In the Valley, you come to see that as normal, because all your friends and co-workers will be doing the same thing.
For me, I'm glad I lived in the Valley and I still do business there. It was a very huge turning point and critical chapter in my life. However, for many reasons, not everyone can get there, at least now. Yet they worry and fret about it.
My advice, is don't worry or fret, do the best you can, with what you have, where you are. If the Valley is in your future you'll be there. And beyond that, there is a downside to the Valley -- too many people acting like entrepreneurs attending events and conferences rather than building product or businesses. It's also a huge echo-chamber.
Those are major downsides.
Even if you aren't there, you can still read and see what's going on, without being pulled into the echo-chamber and backslapping "ataboys" that are often made with good intentions but inadvertently damage companies or entrepreneurs in the long run.
Foreign startups in Silicon Valley still a rarity
Summary: Asian programmers may be a common sight in Silicon Valley, but foreign entrepreneurs are practically a rarity, says Valley-based accelerator.
By Victoria Ho for Starting Up Asia
December 5, 2013 -- 08:58 GMT (00:58 PST)
Asian programmers may be a common sight in Silicon Valley, but foreign entrepreneurs are practically a rarity, according to Ben Levy, a partner at BootstrapLabs.
"If you start digging into how many of the foreign entrepreneurs that go through them manage to stay in Silicon Valley, the number might be close to zero or in the single digit percentage," he said.
Foreign startups in Silicon Valley still a rarity, according to BootstrapLabs.Levy, who is based in the Bay Area, said foreign entrepreneurs who try to set up shop in the Valley—even those who manage to go through prestigious programs with Y Combinator or 500 Startups—almost never manage to stay on.
Of course, Levy was speaking from the perspective of BootstrapLabs, whose raison d'etre is to bring foreign startups to the Valley in the first place. But his point is supported by several high-profile tech CEOs who have been pushing for immigration reform in the U.S., in order to attract more tech-savvy workers to the country.
In March, over 100 tech executives including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, HP CEO Meg Whitman, Intel CEO Paul Otellini and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, signed a letter urging President Obama to relax immigration laws especially for highly-skilled workers into the U.S.
Levy said the missing piece for many startups wanting to stay is the need to have sufficient funding while they build relationships, without having to start out from ground zero "begging for money" already.
While many may have landed in Silicon Valley with some seed funding, follow-on funding can be a challenge for those new to the scene, he said.
Founded in 2008, BootstrapLabs has been active in relocating startups to the Valley, including Zerply and Witsbits from Sweden, and Budapest's Prezi, for example.
Recently however, it's started to plant roots in Asia, with partnerships with accelerators in South Korea and Malaysia.
Earlier this week, it announced a tie-up with Seoul-based Coolidge Corner Investment (CCVC), to set up a program in Seoul for Korean startups. CCVC manages a US$22 million fund.
The visa is not subjected to the same restrictions as the broader H1B visa for most foreign workers into the States, and has allowed Varun to avoid some of the waiting time and regulatory hoops after Semantics3 finished its term with Y Combinator last year.
By James Santagata
Principal Consultant, SiliconEdge
Given the current media frenzy of "everything Bitcoin" (BC) you probably would've had to have been living under a rock to not have heard about it.
Along with this attention there's been no shortage of proponents as well as detractors. Many detractors have pointed to some of the weaknesses or flaws they see or have purportedly been found in Bitcoin.
While there are certainly many things to be sorted out regarding Bitcoin it always seems that whenever something new comes about there are immediate detractors telling you that this or that is the new shiny thing's "achilles heel" and with Bitcoin it is no different.
Specifically, I'm referring to Bitcoin: What You're Not Being Told which suggests that the blockchain is BC's achille's heel.
As usual, this type of doom and gloom usually never comes to pass as the world is dripping with intelligence and ingenuity. We've seen this with the Y2K situation and numerous others. This isn't to say that detractors aren't valuable, because they are. And very often it is only because of their efforts and concerns that issue or problems come to light and are addressed.
So for that we are very thankful.
But back to the BC's blockchain and the doom and gloom surrounding it. Once upon a time, there were any number of people telling us that the internet was doomed because of the perceived lack of bandwidth (remember those silly "conserve bandwidth" sig lines?) -- that the internet would collapse upon itself. Yet technology and the market place rode to the rescue and we now can download huge video files at the click of a mouse button or watch streaming media on our smart phones very minimal, if any, latency and all for peanuts.
More analogous to the BC blockchain concerns is the limited addressable space provided by IPv4 with IPv4 being 32 bits in length and providing approximately 4.3 billion IP addresses. I first heard concerns about this back around 1995 in tech circles and perhaps in the late 1990's it began to hit the mainstream or at least business press.
And yet this hasn't stopped the internet from growing even though we have more and more devices connected by the minute -- just off the top of my head, we have about 10 devices connected. Perhaps more.
So what gives?
Well, as a short term solution, the NAT protocol was developed and introduced as well as dynamically assigned (recycled) IP addresses. And eventually, we've come to see IPv6 being implemented as more robust solution (of course, IPv6 offers many other benefits, the massively enlarged address space being just one and perhaps the most obvious).
IPv6 implementation has been slow as it's had to contend with both cost and compatibility issues (i.e., you may need something like NAT64, as IPv4 / v6 are not compatible). But it works (as far as I know -- techies, correct me if I'm wrong).
Most importantly, though, IPv6 is 128 bits in length which yields about 340 trillion trillion trillion addresses.
Not bad - that'll support a lot of devices and objects to be sure.
So what can be done about the current and projected length and subsequent weight of blockchains? One possibility is Blockchain pruning but as there are some extremely smart people out there, certainly other solutions will arise to fill this and other needs and issues as they arise.
And given other uncertainties about BC, surely this issue of "blockchain weight and length" will be seen to have been a trivial bump in the road for BC.
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Apple Computer and Apple Records
Who To Choose: Apple, Sony or Microsoft?
Napster breaks the music industry's business model
The necessity of a new business model and legal consumption of downloaded music
Integrated yet not friction-less: Still a royal pain in the ass
The iPhone - Nokia, et al. sitting on their hands
Command and Control
Order of Battle
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