It’s that time of year when everyone likes to compile a “Best Of” list. Having sat through so many meetings here in the center of the universe known as “Silicon Valley”, I’m offering my Top 10 Silicon Valley Business Memes That Must End for 2013. It is my fervent hope we can squash these sometime during 2014.
1. Compute terminology can substitute for normal words…
We do not “reboot” businesses, plans, conversations, or strategies. Difficult fellow human beings are not “no-ops”. Butting in and asking for attention is not a “priority interrupt”. I can keep going and so can you. In the name of decent, normal conversation, I’m asking that we please stop trying to de-humanize human things. Contrary to popular belief, employing this meme does not make us look “technical”. Using the word “meme” however is still cool.
2. Silicon Valley works well because it is a meritocracy…
No it’s not. We all enjoy telling each other this one out here because it makes us feel as if we are making rational business decisions on something other than influence and connection. Silicon Valley depends on networking. It concentrates a lot of skill and talent in a fairly small area and leavens the entire mixture with liberal amounts of cash. We seem to feel that it is a dirty secret that it is not what you know but who you know. That’s not a bad thing or even wrong, it just is.
3. Outrage Expressed on social media is action…
Unbelievably, despite whatever outrage we are feeling about whatever subject expressing it on social media is not going to fix it. Just because it has been expressed in a semi-public forum is not the action-equivalent of doing something. Yes, we linked to an article that proves our point, yes, my hand-picked friends might even be outraged right along with me. That is why they’re my friends after all! No, I didn’t actually “do” anything in this process. In 2014 if we are outraged, let’s actually do something about it in more than 140 characters or “like” buttons.
4. We’re getting a 10x return on our investment!
Come on, we know we’re not! All us bright people out here chasing 10x’s on our initial investment–statistically we know there aren’t that many to be had. In fact the actual number of companies that get this return are vanishingly small. Our limited partners are actually going to be much more impressed with actual returns when an exit occurs rather than excuses about why that hopeful 10x flamed out. If you’re an entrepreneur and you have tried to figure out how to make your pitch look like 10x you know the drill. Please stop. Let’s make 2014 the year we build great businesses with lasting value that further the common good. Let’s have that be enough.
5. Employee Buses
All the haters voting against tax increases to support mass transit, showing up to hate buses for the elite “knowledge worker” to get to work and unclog our highways a little bit, please check your irony meter at the door. Bus drivers parking where you don’t belong: please make those knowledge workers walk a little further. BART administrators and workers: repeated strikes are not only not helping, but there is a real danger of a “pox on both your houses” becoming the way we all feel. Can’t we all just get along? Traffic’s bad enough.
Yes there is some obtuse linkage between Social, Mobile and Local, but not as an investment category. There is no unicorn here. While everyone tries to come up with some kind of grand unification theory around the so-called category, time is wasting for hundreds of little companies with great ideas. Big kudos to the person who dreamed up the name though–it actually makes it look like there’s a grand strategy in there somewhere.
7. We can hide the poor, or at least teach them how to code…
There seems to be a persistent belief that the poor should not be seen or heard and that means they don’t exist. Or that “teaching them to fish” means developing and iPhone app. Please see meme #3 and spare us the Darwinian (Malthusian?) social theories. Why not just do the right thing in 2014 instead? Let’s head over to Glide Memorial and put on an apron; refrain from taking pictures when we’re there, and post absolutely nothing to Twitter about the experience. No one will even know we did it! The poor (whom we will always have with us) will be fed and that’s all that really matters.
8. Food is rational investment thesis…
No it’s not. Call any Bay Area CPA and ask them the silly ways smart people waste good money. Right after they tell you “open a winery” they’ll probably add: “start a restaurant”. Yet we all do after some point and most, if not all of us, lose our shirts in the process. Just because we have come up with some way to tie a smartphone app to our kitchen does not make this venture capital worthy. Let’s make a New Year’s resolution to not make a business plan around food.
9. “Lean” anything must mean it is good for a business…
I love this one for its creativity. It combines humanity’s love of dieting fads with how to run a business. We business people just eat this stuff up (see how easy this is?). Waste looks like fat, and cutting down trims our waste-line (get it?). Lean-ness leaves us with muscle and bone and we are strong and growing. Sure, sure, we get it, but enough already. In 2014 I’m going to start my own meme called “healthy fat”. You see, startups are really like babies and babies actually need a lot of healthy fat to grow quickly… hey wait! If I turn this into a restaurant and add an iPhone app… instant funding!
10. Personal Branding
I don’t know if this started out here in San Francisco or not, but it sure feels like it did. Humans are not brands, nor should they ever be. It’s bad enough that half the clothing I wear has to show some type of logo, but now I have to make myself into a brand too? This is what we’re teaching our next generation of entrepreneurs? Be your own brand? Really? How about we focus on making ourselves into better people and leave the branding to companies and cattle in 2014?