Silicon Valley: Hackers, hucksters, and the hopeful

Two articles in the business news caught my eye recently, providing very different takes on entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley.

From Business Insider, Google’s Larry Page Does Exactly the Right Thing: Says ‘Whatever’ to Wall Street. “In some people’s minds, Google’s Larry Page just committed the cardinal sin: He offended Wall Street. Wall Street has reacted to the first quarter in the Page regime by tossing the stock overboard. Larry Page is spending way too much, Wall Street says. Larry Page isn’t communicating well enough. Larry Page couldn’t even be bothered to spend more than a couple of minutes on the earnings call with Wall Street last night. So to hell with him! Lost under the outrage, of course, is that Larry Page may be doing exactly the right thing: Focusing on Google and Google’s products and users, instead of Wall Street.” I’d agree that finance has become too involved in business. Bankers should be providing businessmen with capital and letting them innovate and sell useful products. Big mergers, private equity firms, and the whole Wall Street machine has become very good at shaking money out of business, but their track record on long term health is less than stellar. Hopefully, Larry Page has enough clout, and an actual strategy, to keep Google doing what they’re doing.

Of course, that leads to the question, what is it that Google does? Most people think of them as a search engine, but in fact, Google sells advertisements, and Business Week has an article about how toxic the focus on advertising has become. Says early facebook employee Jeff Hammerbacher, “”The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.” “Once again, 11 years after the dot-com-era peak of the Nasdaq, Silicon Valley is reaching the saturation point with business plans that hinge on crossed fingers as much as anything else. “We are certainly in another bubble,” says Matthew Cowan, co-founder of the tech investment firm Bridgescale Partners. “And it’s being driven by social media and consumer-oriented applications.”” One of the big open questions at Prevail is how new forms of media, particularly social media, can be used to increase social participation and guide what we call the Second Curve of Social Change. But if at the end of the day, if everybody is focused advertising, social media is just perpetuating a cycle of consumption, with more wasted time for average people in an already advertising saturated world, and for the researchers who are supposed to be improve the technology.

Makes you think, doesn’t it? These are big issues, and if any entrepreneurs out there are reading, maybe they could share some ideas.

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