Steve Blank Interview by Business Insider
Some interesting stuff from the interview, quoted below (click the link above for the full article). I’ve made bold (bolded?) the quotes that stuck out to me the most:
Business Insider: You’ve written about the secret history of Silicon Valley. What makes this place unique for entrepreneurs?
Steve Blank: Do you know what they call a failed entrepreneur here? Experienced.
Anywhere else in the world you’ve got to change your name. You’ve got to leave your town. Think about any conversation you’ve had with a failed entrepreneur. Here you tell somebody “I just blew through a couple million dollars” and what’s the next question your friend asks you? “So what company are you doing next?”
Silicon Valley was a physical place, it extended from Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View. Now it’s a state of mind that essentially extends from San Jose to San Francisco. We’ve become a company town focused on innovation and entrepreneurship.
The United States and other places in the world have clusters of industry. Milan is fashion. Detroit used to be cars. Hollywood was movies. Silicon Valley — we do one thing here. We do innovation. This is more like Athens or more like Paris in the 20s or Florence in the Middle Ages. The rules change when you get off the airplane or drive across the Golden Gate Bridge. Failure equals experience. Risk equals progress. There are no wrong answers.
BI: How do you set that up elsewhere? What’s unique here? Did it come out of UC and Stanford? Is it the climate, is it something in the water?
SB: People write about the entrepreneurs because they’re exciting and they’re interesting. But people forget the core of the valley isn’t entrepreneurs. It’s a combination of entrepreneurs and a set of equally crazy people who are risk-capital investors. Silicon Valley would be a bunch of smart scientists and entrepreneurs sitting in their labs and their garages without having an equally capable, equally crazy financial asset class.
Where else can a bunch of financial people say to their investors “there’s one thing I can guarantee you: I’m gonna lose 90% of your money.”
“I should probably take it to Las Vegas. Why should I give you my money?”
“Because the other 10% is probably going to make you 10x.”
Now of course some smartass is going to say “why don’t I give you only the 10%.” The problem is we still don’t know which one, although we’re getting smarter.
What people keep forgetting, this is a Valley based on enormous greed. I don’t mean greed in a nasty way. Why do VCs exist? Obscene returns. Not OK returns. Obscene returns. It’s the infrastructure that allows that to happen.
You go to Argentina or Chile — it takes years to shut down a company. Here you shut down a company in a week and a half. What’s the capital gains rate? Somewhere else it’s 90%. Well fuck you, why should I have a venture capital firm? I’m working for the government.
Usually it’s helpful to have an outward-facing university, one that encourages students and professors to leave rather than stay and doesn’t cross their arms and look at you askance when you leave.
BI: Last question — if you could give an entrepreneur one piece of advice, what would it be?
SB: There are no facts inside the building so get the hell out.