Physicist, Startup Founder, Blogger, Dad

Friday, February 17, 2006

Valley zeitgeist

Just returned from a visit to RobotGenius world headquarters in Oakland, and a whirlwhind of meetings in the nerve center of the high tech world (Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Woodside).

Some observations... Animal spirits are reviving -- it's not 1999 again but the mood is very positive compared to the last few years. Many VCs are emboldened by recent positive exits in their portfolio companies. The latest ill-defined buzzword is Web 2.0. Wireless (cellphone) security startups have already seen exits. Fear and loathing of Microsoft is being replaced by fear and loathing of Google. Upscale restaurants with $20 lunch entres were packed in Mountain View, and not just by money men (VC density isn't high there, unlike University Ave in Palo Alto), but what appear to be rank and file tech workers. The density of startups in some areas is startling -- every third building seems to house a couple of small tech companies with goofy names. It's strange to see 21st capitalism cheek by jowl with ancient businesses. The JPMorgan Partners office in Woodside is next to a barber shop and a bakery, with its luxe futuristic interior camoflaged by an rickety wood exterior. RobotGenius sits across the street from a tiny Hawaiian barbeque restaurant, a nail salon and an acupuncturist-herbalist. (Our $1 per sq ft rent in Oakland is probably a fraction of JPM's - gotta watch the burn rate :-)

A new culinary phenomena: Indian-Chinese food (that is, Chinese food as served in India, now imported to the Valley at hole in the wall restaurants). Ethnic diversity is striking (esp. relative to Eugene) -- so many Indians and east Asians, not to mention Hispanics and black and white Americans.

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