silicon valley

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While Mark Zuckerberg slept in his Harvard bed dreaming about the future of Facebook, do you think he ever wondered if it might be big enough to impact a national presidential election?  I’m guessing not. But he may have.

I was at a start-up called when Zuck had 18M users. Both web apps allowed users to build their own website, but with Zude you used objects. Facebook was database driven. In my dreams, it was understood that social networks could be used for good and evil.

Social network can and will be abused. Even journalistic instruments are abused. When “the people” are in charge of content you have to know fake and manipulative information will happen. So when Twitter, Google and Facebook went to capital hill yesterday, no one should be been surprised spankings would be meted out. Not yesterday, not 10 years ago.

Mr. Zuckerberg should have known it would happen.  Perhaps not to the extent it did. Not to the point where the world’s leading democracy would be soiled…but he knew. And now we all must fix it. People must be responsible too. Just as we now can detect phishing schemes in our email, we must learn to root out false information.  

Shouldn’t have taken so long. Shame on Silicon Valley.




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I read a quote this morning attributed to the denizens of Silicon Valley “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” As someone who spent many of his early years studying anthropology and also who makes a living today studying and perfecting strategy and its talons, I take issue.

Nothing easts strategy for breakfast. And I’m a big culture guy. Whenever employees talk about company culture 9 out of 10 times they are inarticulate. “We’re an entrepreneurial culture.” “We foster a culture of innovative.” Meh. Sure, employees will tell illustrative stories, usually resulting in a cool product or service or founder feat, but that’s not culture. Beer Fridays, a month off to do your own project, charity Monday – not culture.

ruth benedict

Great American anthropologist Ruth Benedict taught us no single trait of personality, art, language or culture exists in isolation. They all work together. In American business, in start-up business, these behavioral elements are typically borrowed, repurposed, stolen (thanks Faris Yakob), or combined into what Silicon Valley companies call culture. Double meh. A huge oversimplification.

A strategy to “accomplish something” is what’s for breakfast. Also lunch and dinner. For me strategy begets culture. Together strategy and culture are powerful allies. The most powerful of allies. Apart, not so much.



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I once wrote a brand plan for an office products company. And, an impressive global company it was. A good deal of the background discovery reading contained references to technology. If spring-loaded hanging folders were considered technology once upon a time, they certainly aren’t today. The word technology is owned by the digital people.

My first job was to disabuse the company of being in the technology business and get them to celebrate the fact that they were in the “organizing business.” So an element of the brief had to do with the notion that the company really studied the science of organization. Then they codified and mapped it. Applauding company engineers and R&D people as “organizational artisans” made everyone feel good about themselves – rather than envious of Silicon Valley or Bell Labs.

For the brand support planks (used to prove the brand claim) many brand planners would have gone the “quality” root — a much over-used strategy. Rather, I opted for durability. As a marketing word “quality,” like “technology,” has been watered down. It’s a toxic brand planning word.

I can’t publically share the brand Idea for this global brand or the other support planks but am happy to discuss (offline) the thinking and ultimate position. For a deeper dive write steve at whatstheidea. Suffice it to say, the big honkin’ observation was to get this company back into the office and out of TechCrunch. Peace.


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Nice article over the weekend in the New York Times on the growth of web start-ups in NYC.  Silicon Valley East some might say.  Other suggest the East coast is trumping the West when it comes to start-ups in the media, mobile and publishing areas.

NY is likely to be the hub of these companies not just because advertising, publishing and media companies reside in NY, and lets not forget the financiers, but because the next “haps” development area is mobile and there’s no better place on earth to test mobile apps than in a city of 8 million people — and the businesses they frequent. It’s a commercial petri dish. 

Brooklyn Vs. SoHo

There seem to be two factions in NY where the action is. Brooklyn is where the gearheads and coder-savants have their businesses and SoHo is where the artsy, consumer-savvy go to work. The two areas are only a couple of subway stops away and are feeder neighborhoods, but they are different mindsets indeed.  I’m not sure which one is the shark and which the pilot fish but I’m working on it.

I haven’t forgotten you Union Square and Flatiron people, but you are just a little too focused on da monies and PPT and not enough on the art and code so I’ll remove you from the fray for now.  Anyway, there is something very exciting going on in these two communities and it will be a hotbed of technology innovation and seriously cool mobile growth. Ride the subway between these two communities and watch the future happen.  Peace!

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