There is a lot of bullshit in Silicon Valley

The Silicon Valley’s ecosystem is great at saying how good you are. It’s like a bunch of consultants just telling you what you want to hear (without the nice wording from consultants). Luckily, when you launch, you have users and customers that will tell you “the real thing”.

The Californian culture is great for many things, but there is little cost here in being nice. Everybody is so nice! You have to be really careful, as people are not so honest with how they really feel. There is a lot of bullshit in Silicon Valley! If you come here with white shoes, they will get brown so fast…

What happened last Wednesday in a workshop titled “PR Buzz for Early-Stage Startups“, in the fbFund’s offices in Palo Alto, is a good example of this. I admire Jeremiah Owyang for his sage blogging, and also enjoyed listening to PR consultant Jeremy Toeman and Clara Shih, who has just published a book about Facebook. But half of what they said was bullshit. “It’s hard to come across as authentic if you promote a revolution that you personally stand to benefit the most from”, as Scott Berkun pointed out a month ago.

Owyang admitted that, as a marketing tool, blogging is dead as people don’t trust these blogs, though he advised companies to write corporate blogs for news (?). Of course online marketing has become social media marketing with some SEO (not so popular any more). And of course people trust each other more than they trust advertising. We all knew that!

But the entrepreneurs over there were waiting for somebody to tell them what to do to launch their products and all they got were nice words and an advice to check in a PR agency. No way! As most successful net companies have shown, there are two things that you have to do in house: technology and public relations. You can outsource the rest.

The best PR campaign starts having the best product. You need that first. Secondly, you need to have good bloggers, twitter and Facebook users. They will promote your product better than any agency. You will also have to be able to explain it to VCs and potential partners. And they know a lot about that here in the Valley. Sure! I have heard the word pitch about 10 times every single day I was here.

But don’t outsource your PR. You need the best “social engineers” to do this job for you and they should stay with you! You should actually do this. And don’t hype twitter. It’s one of the tools, but blogs, Facebook apps, contests should also be taken into account. Get some help if you need it, but do not outsource the whole thing.

BTW, if you want to be on TechCrunch, think about getting Michael Arrington angry. The people from 23andme did so with their zeppelin (see video underneath) and the guys from Fleck woke him up in his house two years ago (see video underneath). Also, the founder of FatSecret followed him for 30 minutes to do a short pitch. But is it so important to get a post on TechCrunch?

Kenneth Young wrote a more formal report on the event at fbFund.

Jose A. del Moral

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Comments ( 4 )
  1. Jeremy Toeman
    August 9, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Considering you came up to me to interview me personally, I think you could have at least given me the courtesy to say to my face that you disagreed, and had an actual debate about it. Instead of this cheap shot.

    And your comment about what the entrepreneurs were waiting for… well, there was a LOT of opportunity for Q&A, so if the entrepreneurs failed to seize it, that’s their fault, not ours. Finally, we were put into the virtually impossible task of giving specific advice yet to a radically varied audience. I challenge anyone to be specifically useful to dozens of different needs – it’s simply contradictory.

    The truth is *very* few of the very successful companies do everything internally, and it’s actually “Silicon Valley” mentality you are demonstrating by pointing out the rarity of success over the commonality of failure.

    I’ve only launched a couple of dozen companies really successfully (compared to less than 5 unsuccessfully). I guess my “bullshit” works pretty well.

  2. Jose A. del Moral
    August 9, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    You are actually right, Jeremy. When I came to you I was trying to digest all the things I had heard and had not yet made a clear mind on what it meant. Anyway, only 50% was bullshit. As you explain, there are also useful thoughts and I thank you for being there and sharing them with all of us. I hope it is clear enough, so that the controversy I am trying to create does not shadow it 😉

  3. Watch the BS in Silicon Valley (and don't wear white shoes) | Tom Foremski: IMHO | ZDNet.com
    August 17, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    […] Mr Del Moral wrote a blog post: There is a lot of bullshit in Silicon Valley. […]

  4. Greg
    August 18, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    Hi, Jose. Hi from Europe!
    As one who has moved from SV to search for the greener grass in Europe, I can tell you here my white sneakers got brown fast too, maybe even faster than your Pradas. Here the start-up community is limited to a few doctoral students doing something with their professors (with the EC funding), and the VC is simply a joke, not to say BS. They do not “venture” into anything; they don’t even invest — they are worse than banks. If they return your call, and this is a big IF, they most likely want to LEND you a few thousands euros at 40 to 60% APR, given you’ve been in the business for at least 3 yrs and have already generated substantial income. Maybe this is not the Silicon Valley-type of BS, but it is BS anyway.