Three Attitudes That Make Silicon Valley Possible - 3 minute read

What makes Silicon Valley so successful? Of course it is no one thing. Silicon Valley is a system that fosters successful innovation.  There are many elements to the system: the density of the network, the drive and creativity of the people, the VC atmosphere, the 'making-the-world-a-better-place' ethos…

I would argue that there are also three attitudes that are essential elements to the system. There is the attitude of the investors, the attitude of the entrepreneurs and the attitude of the larger community.  

Attitude #1, The Investors:  I call this attitude the valley of no restraint. I was giving a talk to a group of German executives who were touring the valley. When I suggested a few tools to help the innovative process they said, we would never be allowed to do that.

But in Silicon Valley that would never happen. It is a land of no restraint. Investors say, "Yeah, why not? Try it. Let me know how it goes."  The VC attitude is, "Sounds decent, we’ll invest a little."

Look at any VC that invested early in Facebook and you’ll see 50 other investments that same year in companies you’ve never heard of. In the valley there is a pretty high bar for too stupid to invest in. This means stuff gets tried and iterated. Which leads to attitude number two.

Attitude #2, The Entrepreneurs:  I call this attitude Impact over Product. The entrepreneurs who succeed here do not get too attached to their original product. Rather they are looking to see where they have an impact. This is why they’re so willing to pivot.  

Slack began as a game. The founders noticed the game wasn’t dong so great but the chat program in the game was having an impact. This type of change is where the show Silicon Valley gets half its plot points.  

Attitude #3, The Community:  I call this attitude Enthusiastic Early Adopters. Silicon Valley and San Francisco are areas inhabited by gung ho, early adopters. One day, companies started leaving electric scooters on the street. Didn’t tell many people. The directions were on the scooters. People in San Francisco downloaded the app and started riding them.  

This enthusiasm for the new is essential. It is how you run easy betas. It is how you find out if you need to pivot or not.  

So, if you’re looking to create a more innovative culture at your company or in your city these three attitudes are essential to cultivate.  

  • The investors or managers need to have a high bar for saying no.
  • The entrepreneurial types need to be focused on their impact rather than their product.
  • There needs to be a community of enthusiastic early adopters to get fast feedback.
Judah Pollack