Christian Montoya

Lessons from the Valley

2 years ago I had a short stint writing for a popular blog called "Go Flock Yourself." It was a shock blog started in response to the bubbly hype surrounding the initial buzz of "web 2.0," a term that still irks me. It was also named for one of the most overhyped and underwhelming products of that time (which happens to be Flock).

There's no need to discuss what became of that stint, or whether or not it was worthwhile. All of that is a story for another day. What is worth mentioning is that even though I made some statements on that blog that stood the test of time, I was really just another web user (with a couple years toward a college degree) talking out of my rear end on the subject of "web 2.0." I wasn't an expert from the valley, or even a web professional, or even someone with a moment of business experience. I was a kid. (I almost still am.)

So it goes without saying that my current stint working on a startup in Silicon Valley is a big learning experience. As you might have heard before, Silicon Valley is a place like no other. The hype here is so thick you can roll it and smoke it. Doing so would probably make you think that Flock was a good idea. It's a good thing I don't smoke.

But I digress. My intent here is to share some of the insight I've gained since I got here. I'm not saying that any of this is fact or even wisdom; these are my new perspectives. Feel free to disagree and propose your own perspectives. Maybe we can learn from each other.

Things I have learned

  • There is a lot of innovation happening in the web industry right now. The only problem is, having an innovative idea is only part of the battle. Some innovative ideas will be successful, and you will see them in due time. Some will not.
  • It's not all "web 2.0." There are still a lot of problems from the earliest days of the Internet (and even before then) which people are trying to solve, and there are still a lot of innovations that are building upon things that have been around since the beginning. Not everyone is trying to build a social-networking-xml-javascript-tagging-commenting app, and good on them.
  • You can put a price on ideas. It helps to think about ideas and value them by saying, "this is a billion-dollar idea" and "that is a million-dollar idea" and "feedmeplz is at most a $50/month idea." This isn't to say that you should only pursue billion-dollar ideas. If an idea is worth a million dollars, it's still worth some effort, and if you have a few million dollar ideas, you might be Yahoo!. There's nothing wrong with that (or feedmeplz).
  • Some people are very good at talking about ideas while ignoring implementation. This is really stupid and a waste of time. No matter how great your idea is, you haven't made any progress if you haven't considered how to actually make it work. The worse thing is when you have people who know nothing about implementation, and just throw out ideas as if anything can be done. An example would be a venture capitalist who knows nothing about what developers are capable of building right now with available technology, but I'm not trying to pick on venture capitalists; people do this on all sides. It goes without saying that having a technical background is a big advantage in this industry. It gives you a level head (which most business people out here don't have). More importantly, though, it helps to have some experience in psychology, too. This is something I wish I had more of, but it helps to be the one person with "web usability" experience on the project. Knowing how people think is crucial when you are talking about products that people will interact with directly.
  • Which leads to my next point… the Valley is full of people who are out of touch with "normal" people (I use this term loosely only to indicate the Valley is full of people who live in a bubble). To make things worse, the problem of 53,651 still exists (even though the number itself has grown somewhat). I want to say that 99.9% of work out here in the Valley is directed towards one audience: the American well-to-do. People with broadband, relatively new computers, and good cash flow. There's definitely room for profit, since marketing to the wealthy has always been standard business practice. It just bothers me that no one is putting their powerful minds to use by thinking of ways in which the rest of the world (the world population minus 53,651) can have access to technology (and more importantly, technology that can actually improve their lives). I know I am in no position to give out criticism since this is something I am also guilty of, but I'm just saying, is all.

I'm sure I will have more insight towards the end of July, when I am back in Miami and preparing for a completely different experience. If so, you'll see another blog post right here (so stay tuned).

Thank you for reading • Published on June 20th, 2007 • Please take a moment to share this with your friends