Posted by: aliciacastillo | February 20, 2011

Silicon Valley’s secrets: Scale 0-100

Packard's garage, the birthplace of Silicon Valley

Packard's garage Image via Wikipedia

I’ve spent the last 10 days evaluating Silicon Valley‘s operations.

What makes this a special place? A Scale of 0-100.

I thought climate might have something to do with it. If San Francisco has a reputation for mist -not to be confused with mystical- and wind, the Southern Part of the bay area enjoys a much warmer climate in the winter and the summer. Just for you to know, there is no such thing as summer in San Francisco, I learnt that the hard way in 2004 when I participated in an international gift fair in July, a jacket and sweater were indispensable, and hats, gloves and boots were recommended. The South Bay does not have the wind that sweeps through the streets of San Fran either. but no, it is not the climate.

I thought it might be related to technology, there are tons of fascinating companies. I had the privilege to visit a start up: right in the heart of a video games incubator. the headquarters of HP, Apple, and Google are fascinating, but there are many other companies around, and it is a bubbling place… but no, there are many other technology hubs around the world.

I thought it might be the flow of cash, here and there angel investors and venture capitalists exists, you might bump into one. I was told that one of my favorite spots – Coupa Cafe, in Palo Alto– is a must for engaging the interest of investors, the other place seems to be Il Fornaio, close by. I had meetings in both places and still Coupa Cafe continues to be a favorite spot for me, as it shows a Venezuelan flavor. But no, it is not the cash, there are many other places were cash is abundant…

It is not tax advantages… or legal advantages… It is expensive to hire employees in California, and to run a company, not because salaries are high but on the contrary, because company costs are high. The environment is NOT easy on businesses.

What makes a difference in Silicon Valley is the people. From all sorts of life, people are engaging into their own personal development and in parallel into the economic development. A virtuous circle springs out of this. A person does not expect the state or the company or the family to be responsible for his or her life. From a cleaner to a welder to a consultant to a scientist, everyone is driven by a healthy sense of responsibility which I call ACCOUNTABILITY. As a result people have the perception that what happens to them is a result of their actions.

It reminded me of a conversation with an academic colleague about grading. If I grade according to the scale of 0 to 100, and another professor grades by his/her own standards of 40-80, we notice two very interesting behaviors: low-grade students will move to the class of 40-80, and high-grade students will move to the class of 0-100. BUT, the class of the wider range will encourage students to study more and seek better grades, not only because it is possible to get a 100, but because getting a 0 (zero) is also a possibility.

Silicon Valley is a place of a larger scale… those who want to make it big, feel that they can do it, and are thus motivated to do it. Those who can’t move out or keep up…  Instead of winning about it, people feel excited about it, and it is contagious! It is the same enthusiasm that emerged in Packard’s garage (a co-founder of HP) – see picture- and has kept the area vibrant for decades.

So, the lesson is this: if you want to make the most of your life… get into a 0-100 scale, or force yourself to think in 0-100 scale.

I know that life doesn’t have to be perfect but has to be worth it… so I prefer the wider scales, always!


Related books:

The Silicon Valley Way, Second Edition: Discover 45 Secrets for Successful Start-Ups

Geek Silicon Valley: The Inside Guide to Palo Alto, Stanford, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, San Jose, San Francisco

Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure


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