Tag Archives: Mark Zuckerberg

Silicon Valley is Stupid

David Weekly is in terrific form with his post today on GigaOm Silicon Valley is Stupid Which is Why it Works.  It is a delight to read his writing–David’s energy, intelligence, wit, and wattage come shining through.  The article itself is spot on, and is really a must read, particularly for groups trying to build more of the Silicon Valley ethos into their region, town or country.

One additional element to Silicon Valley that I think is important, at least based on my own experience, is the openness and general inclusiveness of the community.

In most places, the existing social hierarchy–where one went to school, whose kid you are, whether you have friends in high places–exerts a huge influence and can be a huge help (or barrier) depending on where you fit.  Of course, Silicon Valley has an element of this–certainly being on a first name basis with A-listers like a Ron Conway, Mark Zuckerberg or John Doerr would likely confer a some benefit to you: who you know matters.

It’s not as much who you know, it’s what you’re doing.  In my experience, two elements really balance this out.  First, here in Silicon Valley, the core arbiter is really around what you’re doing and what you’re building.  This focus on what you’re doing (and the quality of the people you’re doing this with) overshadows, in my view, whomever you might know.  For example, I’ve talked to people who claim they were the right hands to Larry (Ellison) and then went built businesses for Steve (Jobs) whom I thought were complete yo-yos.  At the same time, we’ve funded successful companies where the founders were basically unknown and unreferenceable, as they had so few LI connections or prior real work experience. Put another way–if you had the choice of being an awesome team working on awesome projects with no network versus being super networked but working on a meh project with a meh team, you’d take door #1 in a second.

Silicon Valley is more open.  The second element is that the Silicon Valley network is as open as I think you’ll find anywhere in the world.  Not only are the most seasoned and experienced investors or executives generally findable and reachable, but the vast majority of them operate with an ethos that they’ve always got to be growing their networks.  This is not to say that barraging them with a spray and pray email form letter is going to get a response, of course.  That style blows and you won’t get far.

But broadly speaking, if you want to connect with anyone, and you work at it thoughtfully, you can get it done.  Concretely, visualize Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) in the movie Wall Street, who’d chased his prey, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas).  You may have to work at it to connect with someone, but with persistence, creativity, and quality, you should to connect to them.

My own experience in Silicon Valley over these last 5 years is evidence of this.  I moved to Palo Alto from Tokyo, Japan, where I’d spent nearly 4 years working for Microsoft in its Japan subsidiary.  Although I’d really enjoyed my time at Microsoft, I really felt that in the tech industry, so much growth and innovative thinking was occurring in SV that I had to get there.  I knew that I wanted to stay in tech, and I knew I wanted to get involved in smaller companies (an easy threshold to meet, given that when I left MSFT had more than 90,000 employees).

In any case, when I showed up in Palo Alto, other than some former Microsoft colleagues who’d moved here, I effectively knew no one.  I had a network of zero, basically.  From day 0, however, I found that I got great opportunities to meet great new people, that vast majority of them were interested in helping me find my way.  This ethos was quite broad, and time and time again, I was struck at how helpful and thoughtful people were in helping me out when there really wasn’t much upside for them.

Nowhere is this more clear than how I actually met David Weekly.  When I lived in Tokyo, working for Microsoft, I was getting really serious about leaving MSFT to head into the great unknown of Silicon Valley.  I was reading about Silicon Valley, and surfing around LinkedIn to learn about people.  I stumbled onto an article about the SuperHappyDev House events that David was hosting at the times.  (They’ve since mushroomed into something much bigger and more broad.)  These were apparently all night hackathons at some house he was retngin up in Hillsborough.  And what struck me was that his LinkedIn profile had an Endorsement from a police officer who had come to, I guess, break up one of these parties.  I remember thinking to myself, “I’ve *got* to meet this David Weekly guy!”  (I also became a user of PBWiki, a great product, btw.)

Anyway, fast forward 3 or 4 years, and I’ve got myself here, helping out at the FounderInstitute, Adeo Ressi‘s global startup incubator.  Adeo and I were basically neighbors when I moved to Silicon Valley, and he couldnt have been more helpful and fun to get to know.  He was getting the FI rolling, and he was kind enough to give me opportunities to speak, facilitate, and at times just help out.

Anyway, I was moderating an evening’s events at the San Francisco FounderInstitute, and there as one of the guest speakers, was David Weekly.  I introduced myself like a total fanboy, though I’m not sure that I asked for an autograph.  :)  I introduced him to the FI founders with my Tokyo story.

A culture where people are most honed in on what you’re building and what you’re doing.  An environment that’s really open, where people tend to want to just be helpful to others in getting out there and building cool stuff.  Those are two more of our additional stupidities out here that make this place so very great.  Thanks David for the great article!

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Facebook’s Biggest Mistake

Yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg took the stage at TC Disrupt to make his first extended public comments since Facebook‘s troubled IPO earlier this year.  During his comments, “Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook’s mobile strategy relied too much on HTML5, rather than native applications.”

This perspective and openness showed a founder/CEO who was dialed in to the challenges the company has faced on mobile.  It also enabled him to contrast nicely the big improvement $FB has made in shifting to a heavier reliance on ‘going native’ as it pertains mobile platforms.  Shareholders were positive, pushing the stock up 3%–I’d expect both because they realize that Facebook has a mobile strategy and is executing on it, and because they are seeing evidence that Facebook’s leader is a serious, serious guy.  This is goodness–it’s great for Facebook, of course, because as I’ve expressed elsewhere, Facebook needs a great mobile strategy.  More broadly though, it’s good for the whole ecosystem–we should want Facebook to thrive and grow, as it’s continuing momentum has a gravitational pull that helps fuel and balance the broader tech ecosystem.

From a Facebook standpoint, this was really a no-brainer.  Mobile is the future, and  with mobile, the future is arriving a whole lot faster than anyone really thought.  As a result, Facebook really needed its mobile product to be a first class citizen.  That meant it had to, had to, go native.  Not even a choice.

The unfortunate thing, though, is that it probably exposes the lack of robustness in HTML5 and mobile web.  People will now predict that HTML5 was before its time, companies shouldn’t bet on it, etc., etc.

To an extent this is true.  For great mobile-first and mobile-centric experiences, HTML5 involves compromises.  As a developer, you get broad multi-platform distribution, with the cost of a degraded user experience.  This degraded user experience is a big big deal on mobile though.  The iOS and Android platforms in particular have trained users to expect responsive, highly functional apps.  They’ve gotten us used to instant gratification, smooth transitions between screens, etc., and when HTML5 can’t deliver that, the app suffers.  And given how intimate a smartphone app experience is, and given how many apps are competing for a user’s attention, delivering a weak user experience is an unacceptable risk for a developer to take.  Indeed, Facebook’s mobile HTML5 app showed clearly the challenge–users were held hostage to it, and they hated it.  With its new native app, Facebook is seeing better user retention, engagement and usage.  A better app, a better user.

Does this forecast the death of HTML5?  Absolutely not.  HTML5 is coming and its a big wave.  It is also a lot of work.  The  HTML5 evangelists predicting the  death of native apps, were I think over-optimistic.  Not because of their wrong on the technology.  Instead, its more about user training–users will continue to have high demands on mobile experiences, and this will force the transition to take time.

I think this will continue to provide opportunity for a wave of companies working to build the infrastructure, tools, and services that enable the HTML5 wave to become a first-class development platform.  In the gaming space for example, companies such as Game Closure, Artillery, and Spinpunch, are all focused on helping enable the next generation of games and game distribution via the mobile web.

So exciting times for the industry here.  Great to see Facebook getting on track for mobile.  While I’d love to see HTML5 delivering the goods now as a dev platform, I’m not at all surprised that it’s not yet there.  While a big mistake for FB, a recoverable one.  And not a death knell to the power and impact that HTML5 is going to have in the longer term.

 

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

#STARTUPPROTIP — Inevitability

Last month, I had the good fortune to host a group students from Duke University who had come out to SF & Silicon Valley for their spring break to get exposed to the startup world here.  We ended up at The Counter on California Avenue in Palo Alto, and the folks there at the Counter really took great care of us (topic for another post).

During our time together, one of the students asked me “What exactly are you looking for in the people or the teams you invest in?”  This student then followed it up saying he wanted to understand how what he’d need to do to break-through and gain the attention of an investor despite being just a student.

Now before I go off on my thoughts on this, I’d say that “being just a student” isn’t an obstacle to investment, at least from what I consider the best venture investors.  Benchmark Capital’s Bill Gurley’s recent post, Why Youth Has An Advantage in Innovation & Why You Want To Be A Learn-It-All, illustrates why it’d be a sucker’s bet for venture investors to look past an investment opportunity purely based on the youth of the founder.

Net: if you’re a student and you want to start a company and need to raise money, my view is that you have the same challenges that every other founder faces—you’ve got to build something people want and you’ve got to blast through whichever walls are in your way.

So with the being just a student thing set aside, then to the heart of this guys question, namely, what am I looking for?   If there were 1 single word that I’d site as the thing I’m looking for with the people that I invest in, it’d be this….

Inevitability.

Inevitability means that no obstacle will be too large.  Inevitability means you have a vision of where the world can go that you see, and that you’re the unstoppable force to get the world to buy in to that world.  Inevitability is about focusing on not stopping until you get any number of commitments that are needed—the code written, the product shipped, the customer sold, the investor closed.  Inevitability.

When I think about the many CEOs we are actively working with at BlueRun Ventures, we see different personalities.   Some are very technical, some business driven, some both.  Some are extroverted, others are introverted.  Whatever, there really isn’t a template in my view, different folks thrive at running different types of companies.

But a common thread that I definitely see is a push that drives for inevitability.

So don’t worry about whether you’re still a college student or whether you’re even in college.  (Believe me, having a college degree does not correlate to startup success, just ask Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, or Michael Dell.)   But do worry about how much inevitability you are driving in your business effort.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta