California Dreaming: from Silicon Valley to Silicon Beach, beyond and back.
“California dreaming, on such a winter day” did the Beach Boys sing some 60 years ago and that line is quite evocative for a running joke that I regularly have with my colleagues, here in our London office, when outside it is pouring rain. We love LA, and I love the whole Democratic Republic of California, from the upstate vineyards down to the San Diego shores (now it sounds more like an Eagles’ song – sorry, my bad).
California has always been one of the brightest among the 50 stars on the USA flag - if not the very most brilliant. An actual land of freedom, dreams and, for some, also opportunity. Business-wise, instead, it all started with the 19th century’s railroads constructions and the gold rush, when packs of gold diggers migrated to the Pacific Coast to seek fortunes. From those days, we have inherited not only the aforementioned expression, today mostly used about people looking for a wealthy spouse, but also iconic companies like Levi’s and Wells Fargo Bank. Then, as time went by and throughout two World Wars, the metal that people went after wasn’t yellow and shiny anymore, but grey and rocky: gold had been dethronized by silicon.
Silicon Valley, as a term, was initially been attributed to Frederick Terman, a Stanford University professor that encouraged his students to start their own companies instead of working for big corporations (legend!). The first (and most famous) students who took for good his advice where two gentlemen named Will Hewlett and Dave Packard – have you ever heard of a company called HP? I assume that was a yes… Those were the late 30s and today, in the quasi early 20s of the following century, Silicon Valley has grown to a multi-Trillion Dollar technological district that keeps on innovating, inspiring and changing the world as we know it.
Therefore, for all that this land may represent, I’d like to share a personal account of my most recent business trip to San Francisco, Silicon Valley and to down south in what is known as Silicon Beach – let’s hit the road!
The Bay Area was my first stop. I could talk at length of the charming San Francisco and of how in Berkeley you can still hear in the distance the echo of Jimi Hendrix’s Stratocaster, of how the freedom of being is still alive and well. However, I shall go back to business, as what we’ll be focussing on is the inspiring venture capital and entrepreneurial culture enrapturing the whole region.
Firstly, the San Fran Venture Capital industry is a perfectly designed machine that funds young champions bread for success, for the local GPs tend to have simultaneous access to information on the next hotshot star-ups, and they invest also depending on the potential customers and suppliers that they, or other GPs, can hook to the target start-up in order to pump up the revenue line. In public markets, it’s rare to see this (exception made for activism), but in venture capital is customary even if Darwin would likely be in complain of such practice. Why? Well, as it looks like that in Silicon Valley, the fittest is not necessarily the one that survives and grows, rather the start-ups with the best network will.
However, what’s most inspiring is not the tech-focussed capital management industry - it’s the founders and the entrepreneurs’ ethos, for what in other parts of the world people might know as fear of failure, there transforms into daring greatly, working hard and helping each as much as possible. For I firmly believe that if Silicon Valley became what it is today, the more considerable merit comes from this type of business comradeship and openness, thing that here in old Europe we can only dream about, sadly.
Moving South, I landed in what today is known as Silicon Beach, as in the last ten years, the whole L.A./Southern California coastal area saw a staggering growth in Venture Capital, Technology and Impact Investing. Many GPs are now located in this area looking for more affordable company valuations than what they may averagely find in the iconic Silicon Valley, with the main two hubs being L.A., more generalist and diversified in terms of star-up sectors, and San Diego, definitely focussed on HealthCare, MedTech and Biotech – although in both you may find great waves to surf, whether you jump in the water or if you are looking for attractive investments.
The whole trip made me coming back tremendously inspired, to the point that I made my commitment to be more often in California and to make it a strategic hub for my company, KurosAssociates.
The bottom line is that we all need more California Dreamin’: we need people that want to change the world as well as entrepreneurs that want to make a positive impact through their economic success. The past is history, and we may learn from it, the future no one ought to know, but the present is here now – so let’s all make it happen!