Building A Billion Dollar Business? Think Empowerment

Empowerment Is One Of The Secrets To Succesful Innovation

I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area back in 1998 – have seen many ups, downs, and changes over the years, and it’s always been very interesting to me the way things work around here.  It’s a unique place. The weather is awesome, never too hot and never too cold. A number of people who are here who are just amazing blows my mind. There are a lot of places out there who aspire to be like Silicon Valley: Silicon Alley or Silicon Prairie or Silicon Beach or Startup Paradise or whatever I think that’s the Hawaiian one (which is probably more accurate since I’m pretty sure most of these startups have nothing to do with Silicon)

There’s something about this place that makes it very different. It’s the sheer, unending optimism, the entrepreneurial spirit which seems to be everywhere, and the huge, disruptive thinking, perfectly willing to blow up and rebuild things in a way which empowers humanity, helps make us better, freer and more human.

Everywhere you go, everywhere you turn, everyone you know is involved in something new, exciting and amazing and the sky’s the limit. Even in the deep dark depths of every recession that I’ve ever been through here, there’s always that overheard conversation in Philz about how someone left their job to start this new startup. You hear things like “I don’t know where it’s going to go. I don’t know where it’s going to lead.  I don’t know if I’m going to starve.  But by God, I’m going to do this thing.”

This may be the single greatest concentration of real and aspirational entrepreneurs in the world, where they feel that they have the freedom to think big, to think disruptive, not just think out of the box but blow up the whole damn box. It’s exciting. There’s the positive side, and the negative side is that if are here and you are not involved in one of the super successful startups (which is of course more likely because most startups in general fail – although you wouldn’t think that according to the press around here) you go “Damn I missed that one and I missed this one” and if you keep on missing it and the funnily enough what you read in the media is all the successes you very rarely hear about the failures.  So people think “Oh man Silicon Valley is great.  There are all these startups and they’re making all this money and they’re changing the world.” There is a dark side to it as well, but that’s a topic for another day.

There is a lot of talk about money, but it most cases, it’s not even about the money. It’s about changing the world. It’s about doing something massively transformational.  It’s about doing something incredibly amazing.

A lot of times I talk to companies that are outside of Silicon Valley and they ask “what is it about Silicon Valley that’s so special? Why do people come here and why there are so many amazing things coming out of this place?”

We think big and we think disruptive, and we think – how can we empower people to help them overcome obstacles placed there by big institutions that are forcing us to do things their way? We think that with the use of the right people processes, tools and technologies you can blow apart and remake whole industries for the better. Look at the music industry, the publishing industry and now the educational business is getting totally blown apart and rebuilt with online learning. The taxi business is getting totally blown apart, the hotel business is getting totally blown apart – maybe your industry is next.

We don’t think about revenues and costs. We think about empowering the little guy. We think that adult humans are pretty responsible and generally good, and if we just gave them the tools via technology to let them do the same stuff large, established businesses are doing, and in so doing, keep a bit of the action for themselves then that is a good thing.

Empowerment, not money, is the key driver.