On this trip, I spent 8 days in the Silicon Valley the most since August 2000. The bulk of my meetings were there. I got to meet a wide cross-section of people and companies. So, I thought I would end this series with my impressions, especially against the backdrop of the news that Bangalore may soon have more techies than the place it seeks to emulate.
Silicon Valley consists of two types of companies the big, established giants of technology, and the start-ups who seek to overthrow their bigger brethren. Everyone has a choice of where they want to work the stable life of the biggies, or the risky road of the start-up. For those who prefer the latter, it is then a luck of the draw (as Atanu put it) most start-ups fail, but there are a few that make it big. It is this dream of making it big one day that keeps the fire in the belly for many entrepreneurs and those who join the freshly minted start-ups early in the game.
The Silicon Valley remains the hub of innovation. The freshest of ideas and work continues to happen there. In part, it is due to the ecosystem that is already in place the entrepreneurs who are on their second, third or even fourth venture, the angels who provide not just the seed capital but also the mentoring, the venture capitalists, the university backdrop (especially Stanford), and above all, the culture of risk. It is this mix that makes Silicon Valley unmatched. We may have more engineers in Bangalore, but the ecosystem needed for innovation and start-up entrepreneurship is missing and will take time to build.
Having said that, I found on this trip a kind-of stasis, a calm. The traffic jams on 101 always a good indicator of activity were non-existent. It seemed like both entrepreneurs and venture capitalists were in a holding pattern waiting for the next new thing. While funding levels are increasing, VCs are looking for companies with some traction in the marketplace. This is both good and bad. It is good because many of the stupid ideas that got funded during the late 1990s will not now get money. It is bad because out of some stupid ideas come some really smart ones!
Silicon Valley thrives on the culture of the next new thing. It has always been ahead of the pack thanks to its mix of having some of the smartest brains in the world, and a vibrant domestic market. This is where I believe that things may need to change in the future. Some of these brains are migrating away East, to China and India. It is still a small trickle, but give it some time, and it will start to tell. Also, the next markets for technology, according to me, are now in the East. The Asian countries are home to the next billion users of technology only, they dont know it as yet. It is here where technology can make a huge impact in improving peoples lives sort of do good and do well.
To get a sense of these markets, entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley will need to travel and spend time in countries like China and India to get a sense of how utility commPuting can make a difference. This is where convergence is happening across various industries it is not as visible on the surface yet. The future is happening and these markets are going to be on the forefront of techs next revolution. For the first time, Silicon Valley needs to start reaching out to markets beyond its geography.