The Silicon Valley Spirit is Back

I was sitting in the office of Rojo.com, the newly launched website to manage RSS more effectively with the help of tagging and friends’ recommendation (some kind of SNS). It is located in a large warehouse-like space – actually it is the AT&T building in downtown San Francisco. The reason it looks like a warehouse instead of an office is, it is a large space, in terms of areas and height. Evryone share the same open space by placing their tables in the middle. It is just like the architecture company in the Suzhou creek art district in Shanghai. There is no separation between – no cubicles, no offices, no meeting rooms – it is just a large open space.

Chris, the CEO and founder of Rojo.com, introduce the team to me. They are all nice persons and Chris showed me the functions of Rojo.com. It is quite impressive – RSS made it easier to track many feeds (around 100? Some has 1000? Are you kidding?), and Rojo helps to recommend those only matters to the user. I would recommend everyone to open an account, take a look and share your feeds with me. My account ID is jianshuo. Free feel to add me as your friend in Rojo.

During our talk, Chris mentioned there are many blogging related companies nearby. “Really?” “Yes!”.

“Six Apart is 2 blocks away”, Chris pointed to one direction, and “Technorati” is two blocks away” Chris pointed the other direction. “Feedster is there, also two blocks away”. I said: “Wow. That is cool!”

This is really cool. There are many small dot.com companies popping up this year (or becoming famous this year). I feel a little bit strange to call these innovative company “dotcom” since they no longer have the attribute of the old dotcom has. These services provide values and start to spread by the word-of-mouth. Some has succeeded already.

To be honest, I feel boring when I look back to the computer history between the year 2000 and 2004. It seems the curtain of the wonderful Internet drama was closed. When the legend of Apple, Microsoft, Dell, and HP fades in 1995, Yahoo!, Netscape appeared. But after the year 2000, there are actually not so many interesting application on the Internet. From the year 2004, new things are happening very month. Many blogging software, social network software, taggings, podcasting emergesÂ… Google start to become hot. It is exciting.

For me, to read the story from the history book (at least from magazines) is one thing, to experience it in real life with me is another. In my trip to Redmond last Decemeber, I met the wonderful guys Eric and James, the founder of picture sharing application Heypix. I planned to write an article about the product but they said “hold on for several days since our website will release in 3 days”. 4 months passed, I dropped an email to those guys and update the current situation. They replied and say: “We were just aquired by CNET”. It is amazing. When this kind of stories happen around me everyday, both in China and America, I clearly feel that the Silicon Valley spirit come backs again.

8 Comments

  1. Why there were Silicon Valley spirit? You may say it’s engineer’s pursue to advancement of computing, but from my real experience there, I have to say it’s money, money and money. Countless engineers and software developers were in a mad rush to join an IPO, to retire early and be a millionare, realizing American dream. That was the driving force for so many to migrate to the Golden state. And countless folks have realized this dream. My friend working in eBay around late 90s told me that he basically worked around millionare techies, even the front door receptionist girl is a millionare. And that situation was not unique in eBay, but in Cisco, Yahoo and countless other successful IPOs.

    Now the wealth effect is gone, probably forever gone, along with the so called SV spirit. Commoditized software developments are increasingly shifting to Bangalore and Shanghai with cheap engineers competiting the project. And stock options is no longer a viable incentive. Venture Capital is stagnant toward launching new IPOs. Most developers are feeling lucky to have a job. Many are still in bunker mode. In my opinion, globalization is reducing the appeal for existing development mode. Although companies like Google, ebay or Yahoo are profitable, but people at large still can’t find an effective way to make internet a profit machine. Only ubiquitous broadband can make it happen, not yet.

  2. Just another thought. We in the US may not have much SV spirit left but no doubt about it, we do have another kind of “SV spirit”, that is the relentless real estate craze. Bay area is now having the highest medium home price in the US, and yet the price is still going up this Spring. Home has become so expensive that practically it makes no sense for new engineers or developers to move to the Bay area to make a living, he simply can’t afford to live there. It’s pretty much the same and probably even more stronger craze in the DC area where I currently live. I remember 5-6 years ago when we had a backyard party in some body’s house, everybody was talking about stock, YHOO, EBAY, AMZN, CSCO were the must mentioned stocks in the discussion. Now, nobody is talking about stocks. You will be laughed at when talking about stock. Everybody is talking about house, and buying more houses. Couple of guys in my company has acquired their 2nd or 3rd home, and no doubt about it, the profit from their part-time house investment is more from their salay and bonuses.

    What an interesting world, I guess money has to park somewhere, when it’s not in stock, it must be in the house.

  3. Will there be another Internet craze?

    Maybe and maybe not, in my opinion. The most worrisome aspect of this may be globalization and commoditizing of software based web technologies. Now it seems that only an idea is needed, then everybody can do it. Bangalore people, Shanghai people, Russian people can all compete with lower pay. The critical mass that used to make Silicon Valley tech boom won’t be there anymore. What is good for the world may not be good for Silicon Valley. However, there still could be some kind of boom again in the future, it definitely won’t be “dot.com” look alike, it must be so innovative that will cause a flood of VC money and brains congregate into a unique regions, like that happened in SV. Without the critical mass of both money, non-commoditized innovation and brain powers, there won’t be another boom in the valley or anywhere else. Yes, Bangalore is currently having a boom, but it’s simply not the same kind of boom that happened in the Valley.

  4. Wow, that is cool! It would be nice to see the offices of Six Apart, Technorati, and Feedster. The new Internet trends, crazes/spirit, if you want to call them that, are certainly spirited. Google is rushing to gain control in areas where it thinks it can succeed– for example, it created Gmail, which forced some competitors to consider giving their own users more space. Then there is the blogging phenomena, with all sorts of different services and products attached. This Internet spirit seems a little different than the older one, though. I’m not quite sure how to describe it, but I feel it’s not the same. It is still a Silicon Valley Spirit, though.

  5. Highly recommend this article: Video is the internet

    http://www.lightreading.com/document.asp?doc_id=72472

    Until Broadband is versatile enough to carry video like current Broadcast TVs, internet will remain disposable.

  6. If the “Silicon Valley Spirit” is about the innovation and entrepreneurship, then it may be more or less always here. However, if it means another boom with abundant VC investment, high employment rate and successful IPOs, then it isn’t really back yet. It is true that some VCs started to invest in hi-tech industry again last year. But it is no where near what was in late 90’s. If you drive around the Silicon Valley during week days, you will sill find many office buildings with empty parking lots. The area probably has the highest hi-tech unemployment rate in US. The Silicon Valley hasn’t found the “next big thing” yet. And it also doesn’t know how to handle the competition from other areas such as China. So many people are now wondering whether the “Silicon Valley Spirit” will ever be truely back to the Silicon Valley in the future.

  7. JH, you are absolutely right.

    Right now, as I can see from DC metro side, government sponsored IT boom is in full swing. Billions of dollars are being invested to design new intelligent IT infrastructure to thwart future terrorist attack or infiltration. That explains that DC metro is currently a most booming town in the US with about 10% of total national new jobs being created by countless government contractors. I feel today’s DC metro is reminiscent of yesterday’s Silicon Valley, although not hot enough to the extent of creating millionare engineers.

  8. I’ve been there three time last year! stay in Technorati for two days, and my friend Mary gave me a tour on that area. Actually it was pretty close to the Old China Town. She also told me that the famous moive “Sweet November” was shot around there, just couple blocks away from their office building.

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