Friday, April 1, 2005


Interesting piece by the publisher of Forbes magazine. Karlgaard and Tony Perkins, founder of Red Herring and AlwaysOn and my boss, founded Upside magazine and the Churchill Club together. Wonder what Tony thinks about this editorial?

A Silicon Valley Operator's Manual
Incumbents are hated; "disrupters" loved.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

PALO ALTO, Calif.--Twenty years ago a friend and I started a Silicon Valley civic organization, the Churchill Club. We invited Robert Noyce to address our first event. Co-inventor of the semiconductor chip, founder of Intel, Noyce had put the "silicon" in the valley. Writer Tom Wolfe said Noyce looked like Gary Cooper in "High Noon."

Before a packed house, the fetching Noyce strode to the Churchill Club podium and gave . . . a stinker of a speech. He carped about Japanese competition. He called for trade barriers to save America's memory chip business. He yelped about fiscal and trade deficits.

In short, Noyce tried to play politician. His life stood in contrast to this garbage--bold inventor, entrepreneur, adventurer and risk taker. (For sport, Noyce flew Navy seaplanes.) To take Noyce's political rant at face value was to ignore everything real about the man.

Silicon Valley has not changed. It's a mistake to make much of its politics. True enough, the Valley can mimic a respectable political language--if only to snag Davos invitations or to keep Washington off its back. In their souls, Valley businesspeople are wild libertarian crazies who want nothing more than to forget the Beltway even exists. The news is full of talk about the great divide between political left and right. Silicon Valley could care less. The axis that counts here is incumbent vs. disrupter.

Incumbents are the bad guys. They are Microsoft, Gray Davis, Hollywood studios, telephone companies, big pharma and Social Security. Disrupters are Google, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Napster, WiFi, biotech and personal savings accounts. Incumbents are big, slow, rude and authoritarian. Disrupters are nimble, new, cute and libertarian.

Political labels mean zilch here. The most popular Silicon Valley politician of the last 30 years was a Republican, U.S. Congressman Ed Zschau. He scored high marks from the libertarian Cato Institute. Elected in 1982 and again in 1984, Rep. Zschau had a lifetime seat in the Valley if he wanted it. But he gambled all, ran for a U.S. Senate seat in 1986, lost a squeaker to incumbent Alan Cranston and retired. (full article)

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