Archives for posts with tag: silicon valley


The whole advertising industry is embracing Big Data. It’s the new black of marketing. I’m a big fan of testing and optimization. We finally have readily available data in real-time – how can you not incorporate Big Data into your working practices and developing a culture around test and learn? The real success stories in Silicon Valley and on Madison Avenue are exactly doing that. And any advertising agency worth their salt has to follow that path.

There’s one thing optimization can’t do.

Coming up with a radical, game-changing solution to a problem. An idea that is entirely different from any which is currently in play. A disruptive innovation.

To develop this disruptive idea, you need a vision. Testing won’t ever come up with disruptive ideas. Focus groups definitely not. Surveys? Please.

When you need disruptive innovation, you can’t rely on science. You need to rely on art, embracing a bit of chaos. It’s not either science or art. Agile, organizational cultures needn’t preclude discordant ideas. In fact they should thrive on them. The companies that will flourish are those that encourage divergent, not convergent thinking around a powerful vision, and then test and learn as (and not before) they build and execute it.


The whole country expects big things from Silicon Valley. The next job creation machine won’t come out of Detroit or Los Angeles. It has to come out of Silicon Valley. The biggest wallets, the brightest minds, the best engineers are living within a few square miles. They will come up with something revolutionary, something that will make the world a better place, right? We hear a lot about Nanotechnology, new ways of connecting and collaborating with each other, the next digital revolution. We need Silicon Valley to get us out of the economic slump, to solve real problems.

That glimmer of hope was dashed this Wednesday

Techcrunch Disrupt is one of the biggest showcases of new ventures based or financed in Silicon Valley. During the Battlefield contest, companies can showcase their innovative ideas and executions, basically communicating how they are going to change the world.

So I thought.

And, I’m not alone: Max Levchin and Peter Thiel, co-founders of PayPal, expect more from Silicon Valley:

“Lechin said that we have all this technology that allows us to churn through ideas quickly, but “hard” is what often correlates to value, and startups today aren’t addressing “hard problems”. If you’e trying to find a new wrinkle to disrupt on Angry Birds, you’re not solving those hard problems.

“What’s desperately needed in our society”, Thiel said, “is companies that represent genuine progress, not just frantic change from one fashion to another.”.

On the Disrupt stage, there were quite a few genuine progress ideas, brilliantly executed:

Farmigo provides an alternative food system by enabling group-buying and selling of fresh food directly from local farms & producers.

Cake Health, the Mint of healthcare, helps customers understand and manage their health care costs.

SizeUp provides rich local metrics for small businesses to help them grow.

JiffPad, a platform for facilitating useful communication between doctors, patients and their loved ones.

4 companies solving real problems: sustainable food challenges, increasing healthcare costs, small business growth and communication challenges between doctors and patients.

My favorite was Cake Health. Healthcare costs are such a challenge for our society and they provided an innovative step in the right direction to solve that problem.

They didn’t win.

None of the 4 solutions mentioned above made it to the Top 3.

Guess who won?

Shaker, a startup that aims to turn Facebook into a night on the town

So, let me get this straight: There are companies that can improve our current healthcare problem, turn people into organic farmers and buyers, empower patients to understand more about their disease and share it with their loved ones – and a major Silicon Valley event dismisses them and awards $50,000 to  a company that let’s you buy people drinks, choose music for everyone to hear and party it up. All based on your Facebook profile. A casual Second Life.

Oh, okay.

It’s shameful.

It’s pathetic.

The world is looking at Silicon Valley to transform our world and make it a better place.

Apparently, Silicon Valley has forgotten that we need them for better things than virtual drinks and silly games.

We have real problems.

We need to solve them.

Partying it up with avatars won’t do it.

A Facebook game won’t do it.

It appears, Silicon Valley has turned into Silicone Valley.

Or San Fernando Valley.

Creating vapid experiences to make a quick buck.

Not to change the world.

What a waste of potential.

What a waste of time.

What a shame.

Here’s to all the game-changing entrepreneurs and engineers in Silicon Valley

Don’t get discouraged by the TechCrunch debacle. We still need you.

It must be heartbreaking to see silly games rewarded while you’re trying to make a difference. We still need you.

It might seem pointless to work your heart out while the dancing avatars party it up. We still need you.

You are the ones we’re waiting for.

The rest are just boobs.


Ok, let’s get this out of the way: I was a big proponent of niche networks and thought they would become more important than Facebook/Twitter and all the other global platforms.

I was wrong.

I still believe niche networks are the future but there’s a major underlying problem.

It’s another thing we have to take care of.

The last few weeks I’ve experienced an amazing uptick in Quora participation, I get too many emails each and every day letting me know someone new is following me. There is Path. I love Goodreads. And, this endless list of hundreds of new platforms. Too much. Everybody wants me to contribute. Add content. Participate. While I work, have a family, share content on Facebook and Twitter.

Enough is enough.

We don’t need more platforms, sites, log-in forms and passwords. What we need is a better way to share our information. That was the idea behind Facebook Groups. But it went nowhere. Because nobody saw the benefit of investing a lot of time in developing and curating your own groups. More settings, more hassle, more hard work.

What we need is ownership of our own data

I want to build my own experience where I can share the favorite moments of my life just with my kid. A scrapbook of her fathers’ life. I want to be able to create a network on the fly that enables me to share very personal experiences with a limited amount of friends. It can be 4. It can 60. It’s up to me, not Path’s limitation of 50 friends. I want to share my running experiences with my running friends. My concert experiences with my concert friends. My wine experiences with my fellow winos. But, the last thing I want to do is to sign-up for another platform. Learn another UI. Remember new passwords.

There’s only one solution: data portability. As I’ve written in a few posts before, we need to own our own data. Control our own destiny. And  share this data on our terms. This will allow us to develop new, personal platforms that enable each one of us to build micro-networks of shared interests. Create my own destinations, completely independent from anyone.

Let’s face it: That’s a huge problem for Silicon Valley. They rather focus on incremental innovation. Put lipstick on the pig of data exploitation (Ahem, Foursquare, anyone) and continue to make money off all of our data. And they will continue to push the agenda of creating thin value by adding more features and ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’.

But, that’s the past. The future lies in giving all of us control of our data. And release the real power of innovation.


In case you haven’t heard yet: We’re in a deep recession. We’re in the middle of a structural transformation of our economic system. Ok, I won’t bore you: We have major problems. Bailouts, global debt crisis, nature pillaged – our future is at stake.

Many influential people have told us technology will be the savior: It will pull the economy out of its misery, improve our lives, the way we connect with each other – you heard all this before.

Which brings me to TechCrunch Disrupt.

I watched the majority of Battlefield presentations where startups pitched their products/applications. And I was utterly disappointed.

A lot of clones, bandwagon riders and way too many companies relying on advertising revenue. (99.9% of companies basing their business model on advertising revenue shouldn’t be funded and close the doors now. The last thing we need is more advertising impressions. We have plenty of those. We need innovation in advertising, not new platforms using the current digital advertising model.)

And, I’m not alone. Even Scobleizer, the biggest fanboy of digital innovation, communicated his disappointment with the chosen companies:

“Silicon Valley needs to be sent a message that we need real innovation and interesting new ideas.”

Mahatma Ghandi said famously: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Looking at the innovators at TechCrunch Disrupt, our future will be filled with badges, more advertising, more clutter and more applications we need to download. I didn’t see anything revolutionary that questions the Status Quo. Nothing that improves our broken educational system. Nothing that improves our broken political system. Nothing that helps improve communities or our daily lives.

At one point, Silicon Valley used to have a feel for developing stuff that helps change the world. Nowadays, Silicon Valley is more concerned with flipping.

Instead, we need to question our priorities. Questioning the current society constructs and finding new ways to evolve our world into a livable, sustainable and fair community. How can we care more about others and less about material products? How can we develop communities that are less centered around “me” and more centered around a common purpose? How can we make this beautiful world a better place?

We need visionary ideas. Revolutionary products. Companies with missions focused on changing the world, not valuations. I saw a lot of small steps at TechCrunch Disrupt. The big dreams didn’t show up.