An Answer to Critics Who Say that Silicon Valley Isn’t Building/Funding the Right Things

One persistent canard from would-be SV critics is “Silicon Valley isn’t building/funding the right things, aka solutions to big problems.” There are six logical problems with the false choice of “make trivial apps for 20-something SF hipsters” vs “do things that matter”.

First, “make trivial apps” vs “do things that matter” are not actually in conflict; there’s plenty of room and plenty of money to do both.

Second, it’s often hard to tell which is which up front. Almost all big world-changers were dismissed by critics as trivial at first.

Third, observer bias: Only read consumer tech blogs, only go to consumer tech conferences, think SV only works on consumer tech. Founders of non-consumer-tech startups routinely find same pundits mounting criticism have little interest in hearing about other domains. This is exacerbated by the SF-centric consumer tech party scene–other domains in SV don’t have the same party culture, just nerds at work. New arrivals to SV get sucked into SF party scene, and never make it to the South Bay industrial parks where everything else is happening.

Fourth, battling cynical critiques: Founders who articulate the big vision for changing the world get called arrogant and vainglorious. Both criticisms are leveled with no cognitive dissonance: Founders are either not pursuing big ideas, or are out of control egomaniacs if they are.

Fifth, subtext often that communication tech/apps in particular somehow aren’t important or don’t matter, vs energy, education, etc. I think this is 100% incorrect: Communication tech/apps including the Internet are the foundation for everything else we’ll do for 100 years. Why? Communication is the foundation of collaborative work, which is how all the important problems get solved. People working together.

Sixth: Anyone who thinks SV can be doing more/better/different, come join us and participate in building new things, products, companies! Jump in, the water’s warm! SV draws talent from all over the world and all walks of life; nothing preventing any critic from contributing. As my old boss Jim Barksdale used to say, “We have plenty of uniforms your size.” Many opportunities to contribute and make a difference! And, of course, tech startup ecosystem now expanding worldwide. Opportunities to contribute from anywhere abound, linked via Internet.

Source: Tweets – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17


Silicon Valley Syndrome

A growing problem I see often now, arguably the ultimate first world problem, but still a problem, and fascinating to watch. I call it “Silicon Valley Syndrome“. A high-end applied version of the Paradox of Choice applied to genius, high-potential tech whizzes. Acute strains among Stanford grads and young alumni of the largest hot companies like Google etc. But not limited to them, it can infect anyone here.

Presents as achievements and career paralysis overload of too many great choices freezes the ability to decide, commit, and stick to one thing. Do important work for a big company, take one of 20 hot start-up offers, found your own company with any of 5-10 possible co-founders and become a junior venture capitalist? Agggh!

Not nipped in the bud, it becomes chronic, damages 5-10 prime career years. The resume becomes a saga of job hopping. Once potent potential dissipates. Years later, friends and colleagues wonder, whatever happened to X? He/she seemed to have such high potential. Such a shame. Such a waste. It rarely strikes 18-22 year olds. It often starts at age 26 after four years at the hot company. Most common between the ages of 26-32. At age 35 and older, people are either lost forever or come to their senses.

Friends of new sufferers encouraged to slap you silly, exclaim “What’s wrong with you? Pick a thing and stick with it! This is not that hard!“.

Unexpected side effect: More great opportunities open up sooner than they should for new up and comers. Then the cycle repeats.

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Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10