Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Leaving Silicon Valley...

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 6, 2011

Leaving Silicon Valley -- I highly recommend it.

I just got back from a week in London, speaking at an Omnicom conference and then a week in Warsaw (which was excellent). And I'm finding it difficult to get back into the swing of things.

The problem is that every time I leave Silicon Valley for a decent length of time, I wake up and realize that there's a whole huge world out there that doesn't care a jot about the things that we care about here, such as:

-Will Google+ succeed?

-Can Android beat iPhone?

- Will Facebook video be able to take on Skype?

- Will Flipboard become the new digital newsstand?

- Is the white iPhone really white? Or is it beige?

There's a huge universe outside of Silicon Valley that has many other questions on its mind and that's because people lead normal lives. And that's good to know.

I love Silicon Valley because I can have conversations here that I can't have anywhere else. This is where tremendous things happen. But most of Silicon Valley fails.

Take a look around at all the current crop of wonderful new startups, take a look and get their T-shirts because within three to five years, more than 90% won't be here.

That's the wonder of Silicon Valley, that it produces so much value yet the majority of the companies, and that means people, fail again, and again.

But maybe there's a way to improve the odds.

I love leaving Silicon Valley and spending a decent amount of time with locals elsewhere, because then you hear their conversations and what's important to them. And you see how much or little they use Internet technologies and services. But you can also see what might be useful to them and that can spark ideas.

I think that many Silicon Valley startups would do well if they sent some of their people to large urban areas, or target markets, where they could live with the natives for a few weeks or months.

It's not good to be stuck in this echo chamber; which by the way feels more like a washing machine, tumbling and battering incessant memes into our heads via our local media, which loves to breathlessly report the minutiae of every gadget release and web service feature, no matter how obscure. [Take a peek at Techmeme.]

It's good to take a break. But more importantly it's essential. If a business doesn't understand the culture of the greater world then it can't succeed. And Silicon Valley is not typical of the greater world -- it's important that our startups remind themselves of this fact.

They have to move on and succeed in the wider world and that means they have to understand the culture of that world. The only way to do that is to have people that are in it. You have to be in it to know it.

I meet many startups that are moving their HQ, or key executives to Silicon Valley from other US cities, and many other countries. That's a very smart move but the opposite needs to happen too.

There are many ways to fail if you just stay in Silicon Valley, the 90% Club is open to all.


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