Culture – Silicon Valley disrupts startups

Geetha Vallebhaneni & Andy Belk – Culture – What makes Silicon Valley disruptive for startups.

Andy Belk: So, there’s a history of companies in The Valley succeeding with some idea from nothing and getting extremely big and successful and, conversely, of other companies just fading away and dying, either small or large. And so the economy in The Valley is sort of constantly turning over. We don’t get entrenched in, sort of, any one thing. As compared to – you know, for example, we were talking about San Diego where there’s a large amount of industry all around the defense area, and so, if there’s a dip in defense spending, it significantly affects San Diego, sort of instantly, and so they have a very entrenched need to keep the defense industry going… whereas here, it’s much more.

Geetha Vallabhaneni: It’s about disruption really.


It’s really about, just what’s the next big idea… nobody’s looking backwards… people are always looking forwards.

Geetha: That’s the key. It’s about how can we change things for the better? How can I do… it goes against almost, like, human nature, right? What we do is establish a pattern, establish a culture, establish a history, and then we keep following that path. But Silicon Valley is different because we’re always looking for, ‘how do we change it? how do we make it better?’ like, you know, forward-looking. Maybe there is your answer, right? It’s about the nature of the people; nature of the industry; nature of the culture. It’s an interesting question.

Andy: And a lot of it is about being willing to take a risk… and that’s, funny enough, that’s where the whole kite surfing thing is… because Bill, who runs the sort of the kitesurfing group he has this philosophy that learning to kitesurf is a very difficult, involved process and you go through these stages of various levels of despair as you learn… but, you know, you’re rewarded, if you stick with it.. you know, with being able to do a great sport at the end of it. And he draws this parallel with building a business… how you go through this sequence of events, many of which can be despairing and never-ending, you know, but a lot of it is just needing to stick with it. And then you go off and encroach that thing and you know, you try and do these tricks, which are, potentially, fairly dangerous but it’s sort of calculated risk once you’ve got that experience built up.

And it’s the same thing with starting a new company in The Valley where, after a few knocks and bruises and you’ve got some of the experience, you’re willing to take – or you’re able to take – these calculated risks to go and disrupt something, or change something, or come out with a new product, or whatever… or go and talk to that investor, or turn down that investor, and that’s, you know, sometimes it’s things like that… where you have to have that confidence and experience in the background and you’ve learnt from your bumps and bruises.

Geetha: And that goes hand in hand with a culture of forgiveness, too, right? Forgiveness for failure and that’s hard to come by in many societies and many cultures, right? If they feel, if you fail once, everyone has a taboo against that individual: “Oh, he or she is no good because she tried her hand at this…” But here, even if you look at failure and say, “Wow! She must have learned great lessons doing that so, the next time around, she’s not going to repeat those mistakes so let’s give her some money or, you know, let’s give her products a chance,” or something. That’s an interesting, you know, …