Friday, November 28, 2008

The entrepreneurial culture in Silicon Valley

I was reading "Closing the innovation gap" by Judy Estrin and came across this gem that describes brilliantly why being an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley is different:

An acceptance of failure as a necessary stepping-stone to success is an integral part of the culture of Silicon Valley. As a partner at Kleiner Perkins, one of the Valley’s major VC firms, Kevin Compton met with industry leaders from other countries who were visiting the Valley in hopes of learning the secrets of its entrepreneurial magic. He would try to communicate the Valley gestalt with a story. “You’re getting ready for your country’s version of Thanksgiving dinner with the family. You’re 32 years old, you have kids, and you’re going to your in-laws’ for dinner,” says Compton. “After working at your version of IBM for ten years, everything was going great. But all of a sudden you left that job to go to a high-profile start-up that raised a whole bunch of money, and completely flamed out 18 months later. I would ask these guys, ‘Do you go to the family dinner?’ They would usually say no. And I would tell them that in Silicon Valley, not only do you go to dinner, but your brother-in-law comes up and gives you a high-five saying, ‘I wish I had the courage to do that.’ As a risk-taker, you got his attention. That’s in our DNA.”

Having been an entrepreneur in the valley, I can vouch for the accuracy of this assertion. I will go one step further and say my brother-in-law will likely follow up with a question about what were the biggest lessons I learned, and I will respond with here's what I am doing differently with my next start-up as a result of what I learned from my mistakes... the real failure is only when I don't pick myself up to move on and make NEW mistakes.

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