How To Apply Silicon Valley Thinking To Your Company

Silicon Valley Is A State of Mind, Not A Place

I’ve been through a lot of economic ups and downs in the Bay Area and it’s always been very interesting to me the way things work around here; it’s a very unique place. The weather is great, never too hot never too cold. The amount of people who are here who are just amazing blows my mind. There are a lot of places that aspire to be like it: Silicon Alley, Silicon Prairie or Silicon Beach or Startup Paradise (I think that’s the Hawaiian one – which is probably more accurate since very few of these startups have anything to do with Silicon)

There’s something about this place that makes it very different from other places. I think may be something about 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 and 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 the overheard conversation in Starbucks about how someone I 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 “Silicon Valley is great.  There’s all these startups and they’re making all this money and they’re changing the world.”

Actually, I think it’s not really about the money. There are many much easier ways to make money than to become a technologist or a software developer and join a startup which then rockets to the stars. While developers do make good money here, it’s doubtful that they make HUGE money – that’s saved for the founder in the spotlight. If you are really in it for the money, then just get into the “business of money” – go to Wall Street, do your time, become a trader, go work for a bank. In fact, if you just want to make tons of money, just go work in the “money business”, aka finance.

In fact, let’s forget about the money. A lot of times 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. It’s about impacting the world. It’s about making a huge dent in the universe. And you don’t need to be here to think like that.

Companies are outside of the Bay Area come here and ask “what is it that’s so special? Why do people come here? Why are there so many amazing things coming out of this place?”

Silicon Valley thinks big and thinks disruptive, and thinks – 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. We look at those institutions which are causing pain in people’s lives, and we are blowing them up and remaking them as “customer first” businesses.

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 by Uber, the hotel business is getting totally blown apart by AirBnB, all these ideas came from Silicon Valley thinking – maybe your industry is next.

How do you apply this kind of thinking to your company?

  • Stop thinking about revenues and costs and start thinking about how you are going to change the world for the better
  • Start thinking about how to empower your customers even if it’s sacrificing those systems and institutions that have made you so profitable
  • Start truly thinking: customer first. In an ideal world, how would your customers use your products? Don’t think about what can’t be done because the systems in place can’t do them – think about what you could do it there were no constraints, then work back from there.

What is your massively transformational purpose? What are you going to do to make the world a better place for your customers and prospects? Are you just doing this to make a buck, or are you doing this to actually improve their lives?

Let’s make the world a different, better place, together.