The Gospel of Silicon Valley (Part 2)

Silicon Valley is creating the future. The future is happening here as we speak. No other metropole can play along.

It gave people a way to express themselves and stay connected with everybody; it invented the mobile phone to put information right where it belongs, in your hands; it organizes the world for you; furthermore, it created self-driving cars. So the whole mission is to reinvent how things are done, to make life easier.

These developments are creating loads of wealth and eliminating those old cogs. So, if a machine can do it, why not replace it? But, if it becomes expensive, let us look at an alternative. 

This way of thinking fueled the industrial revolution. It was driven by replacing those doing repetitive work. In today’s service economy, people are again the center stage. However, software-as-a-service with underlying machine learning technologies is changing the playing field again. 

But there is an underlying headline that if you don’t do it in Silicon Valley, it won’t happen. Because the world’s future is created here, and the rest will follow. Every morning the globe will turn towards the Valley and ask, “where will my help come from.”

Nevertheless, our economy depends on connections to search for scarce and precious resources. But, using the technology popularised within the Valley, the real work is shifting to the corners of the globe. So I salute you for allowing me to create wealth in one of those corners.

Bottom line: If you want to stay relevant, make yourself unique, and stay connected with your ecosystem. Don’t think in terms of geographical limitations.

The Gospel of Silicon Valley (Part 1)

It’s all about spinning the truth to get more clicks. Amen.

It’s a place of opportunity. You can become the coffee artist on every corner by starting a business from your car’s trunk – the barista of your own success story. Then, if you don’t find your minimum viable audience, you can cross the road. 

And, suddenly, you join conversations about funding rounds, disruptive innovation, and startups. Some will even use words like blockchain and machine learning. Because you’ve got an inspiring story to share about how you started with nothing, and now everybody wants to be your buddy. 

Some of your fellow entrepreneurs’ stories may not resonate that well. The likes and clicks may not come as quickly as they would prefer. The influx of fake, self-serving, status-seeking “friends” and acquaintances is just not coming.

Therefore, a little bit of manipulation would help to attract attention. Of course, everybody loves a success story. But, more importantly, don’t let the facts get in your way to the big payout day. Therefore, it would help if you matched the dreams of your fellow dreamers.

Bottom line: Success built on truth and reality is resilient. A storyline built on falsehoods can take you only that far. Another option is to focus on what matters, but even that is manipulatable.

The price of dissatisfaction

Customers may buy your product because it is well priced, but if they are unhappy with the result and willing to tell you, see it as a value creation moment. 

When you want satisfied customers, you only need to deliver on your promise. However, we assume that the customer understands what you bring to the table. If not, you will have a customer with a product they can’t use or rather don’t know how to use. Some may call it an uninformed customer.

If the customer tells you about their unhappiness, she is doing you a great favor. After all, a complaining customer is someone who wanted your product in the first place. If you can resolve the issue quickly and satisfactorily, you may end up with a very loyal customer. Therefore, see it as a value creation moment.

Bottom line: A satisfied customer seldom complains about the price, but that is also true about the unsatisfied customer. For them, it is all about an unmet need. But for you, unhappy customers come with a significant price tag.

The three-headed monster

Cerberus is a multi-headed dog in Greek mythology that guards the underworld’s gates to prevent the dead from leaving. Hesiod claimed he had 50 heads with snakes growing from his back. 

It doesn’t matter how you approach this three-headed monster. It remains something with which you don’t want to cross paths. Unfortunately, however, every day, we encounter these monsters. 

They feed on uncertainty, miscommunication, incoherent decisions, and ever-changing goals, strategies, and plans.

Your organization can only have one clear vision and mission statement that excites the customers, employees, and shareholders. A view of the change you seek in this world. Some may even see it as the true north of our universe.

Goals and objects are specific targets you need to chase over the next quarter or year to get closer to your vision. But, more important, it helps you stay focused on the vision.

Strategies you discuss in the boardroom and the corner offices. If your strategy work, you will get closer to your goals. Remember, you can change the plan but never move your goal if the strategy doesn’t work. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to share your strategy with the rest of your universe because it is the only thing that will make them envious and maybe run.

On the other hand, your tactics are your secret sauce. You use them to win those small battles. They can even change daily because they are there to support your strategy.

Bottom line: Beware not to feed the three-headed monster. It will rip your organization apart. Instead, be consistent with your vision, mission, and goals. At the same time, remind everyone in the room about the strategy and tactics of the day.

A hop, skip and jump, or not

The fact that you mastered the pond in your grandparent’s backyard doesn’t qualify you to cross the English Channel. 

Well, the Channel is a 16-hour ordeal if you swim at 2 miles per hour. Seasoned swimmers will tell you that it takes a lot of preparation. You need to frequently swim in icy water and eat like a pig because you need the reserves (read fat). I heard some recommending up to 50 miles per week. And you can’t do it without a pilot. More important, get one with a good record.

We frequently get this mentality in the start-up world: you have a great (untested) idea, you convinced your best buddy to join you in the garage, and your grandmother gave you a few dollars to survive the first six months. Then, after four months, you hooked your first paying customer with a well-crafted MVP. You made it. You are on top of the world.

And then, suddenly, the $10 million Series A becomes the next goal. Because why not go for world domination. After all, only the big fish in the ocean attracts attention. And nobody wants to be associated with small fry.

A better strategy to start small, cut your tooth by learning the hard way. Proverbially, learn how to swim in all the seasons, and get a coach to guide you through troubled waters. 

Bottom line: By starting small and engaging with the minimum viable market, you earn the respect of your community. Because it is not a bad idea to accumulate a fair amount of learning experiences before moving to the next stage.

Avoid the elusive truth.

Imagine you are distilling top-quality rum in your garage during your free time. You mastered the recipe. Your five-year oak-aged rum is blowing friends and family off their feet. They are fighting to get hold of your unique bottled premium product, handcrafted rum.

And then, that same group of family and friends, and a few new ones, start planting the seed that you should leave your day job to focus on your fantastic product. Soon, you fell in love with the idea. 

What about the market? After all, you should also fall in love with the market because they keep the boat floating. But that’s easy. The fact is you already identified the need, everybody that loves high-end crafted rum at a reasonable price.

Although, who doesn’t love a high-quality product at the right price? You made the perfect hypothesis about your product and the market, but there is no way you can prove it wrong. Furthermore, you will gain no knowledge by testing this assumption. And then, the uptake is not there.

On the other hand, you may hit your target by narrowing your ideal market to a specific age group, price range, geographical area, income, and behavior. If it is not working for you, change some parameters, test, and measure again. See if you can prove your hypothesis wrong. Repeat until you find the sweet spot.

The point is to find those early adopters from which you can grow without fooling yourself.

Bottom line: You can’t learn when you are always right. You only understand through trying different ways and making mistakes. So beware, you are on the wrong road if you can’t prove your assumptions wrong.