Silicon Valley Redux

I’ve been out doing some business in Walnut Creek, CA this week and so it was fitting to receive a very kind invitation to the August Capital annual Social from that very nice VC extraordinaire and cultural maven Mr David Hornik (he’s also author of ventureblog an intriguing window on the VC and the valley). So at the end of my working day, I jumped into my hire car and rushed off down the beautiful Californian freeways to take me from the suburban reaches of Walnut Creek to the bucolic manicures of Menlo Park. I reached this beautifully hosted event at dusk – a valet with white gloves on drove my car off – leaving me with that slightly vulnerable “this scrap of paper is my car” feeling. Inside, there were gathered a select hubbub of the most interesting movers and groovers of the ongoing tech revolution. The technorati in jeans and shirts, Venture capitalists in chinos and sports jackets and the groovy VCs of August in decorated untucked shirts – all hanging out on their delightful terrace. Among the crowd, the grizzly, but credible guys from Flickr (“no we’re still having to wait for wi-fi digital cameras”) , a bright and booming bloke from Intel Investments – “yes we look at mobile – we think that Japanese know quite a lot about making money – but their time line is so different from ours.” A floater whose company had just gone public and who had just moved up from Austin Texas “in search of the truth”, a couple of music shakers who were gripped to their cellphones and a man who talked to me endlessly about how terrible his Treo was. I was upset by this, his main complaint was everything about it sucked but it was the only phone that did everything he wanted it to do! I mean where was his gratitude – I love my Treo – it’s so geeky! Meanwhile, Sumir from Yahoo Search was just the most enthusiastic man in the world! How could we go wrong – with Searchable content like his?

Driving back, I narrowly avoided a dead deer on the 280 in the dark. It was one of those movie-like moments – I saw it in literally one blink of my eye – prone and bloody on the slick Californian tarmac. But as luck would have it, as I speeded past, I didn’t do my normal thing of identifying with the roadkill. Instead I felt exhilarated by this extraordinarily optimistic bunch I had just the fleeting pleasure of mingling with. Any idea is worthy of consideration and nothing is too dumb not to think twice about – were they really that open?

The Valley has managed to avoid the over-extended, wildly unrealistic pitfalls of the first web-bubble, but the web 2.0 confidence is pretty strong. It seems as if it’s heading full-tilt towards a massive enabling of and exploitation of consumer created content. The post modern me-generation doesn’t just want to talk about “me”, it wants to publish “me” to “myself” and in the words of the best phone in radio request shows “anyone who knows me.” So we are all individual media soures narrowcasting to ourselves. And it seems that the big problem is that none of us is any good at tagging our content with the metadata to make it meaningful. And, by the way, it appears that much of the content might be better described as malcontent which exists like some kind of statistical soundbed or concrete poetry to support the really good stuff. And the really good stuff, will probably contain its own meta-data and not need special tagging, but that might just be my elitist prejudice.


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