The Spirit of Silicon Valley
2018-02-25

The Disruptors

San Francisco bay area (also known by its nickname "Silicon Valley") is home to many of the world's largest tech corporations such as Google, Apple, Facebook and thousands of startup companies. In 2016, the GDP of California was about $2.60 trillion. This means that if California was a country, it would rank 6th among countries in the world. This $2.60 trillion economy comprised $820.9 billion GDP from the San Francisco bay area. The bay area's economy is largely driven by the tech industry with waves of technological innovations. Every now and then, a startup will rise from a humble garage and completely disrupt established industries – Uber disrupting taxi industry and Airbnb making a dent in hotel industry to name examples. And many old industries such as the financial system and health care industry are being disrupted as new technologies emerge.

Hard working culture

"Move fast and break things" is one of the original values held by early days of the Facebook team. It means to get things done quickly and deliver the product as soon as possible. The "break things" might sound bad but it means not to afraid of taking risks. Nowadays it is more about "reliable infrastructure" rather than "breaking things" but keep moving fast at the same time. Many engineering teams in Silicon Valley adopt agile methodology which is designed to streamline the work flow by eliminating the unnecessary work and get down to building working software and delivering them efficiently. Productivity and focus are keys to hitting the goals. Some even go as far to drink their lunch (think Soylent) instead of eating meals to maximize the time for coding and thus maximize their productivities. Workaholism seems to be a desirable lifestyle choice here in Silicon Valley.

On Failure

The vast majority of startups fail. In fact, 90% of startups fail and only 10% finds success. Therefore, the general sentiment here in Silicon Valley is failing fast and often so that you learn from your mistakes and move on to the next project and repeat until you are successful. Statistically speaking, if you have a success story, it is more likely that there are more stories about failure than success. Failure is something we, Myanmar people, cannot handle very well. Failures are bad and we should try our best to avoid failures. However, they should not be a barrier to venturing into new ideas and taking risks. Some people, especially in Myanmar, are afraid of failures and never pursue them. But when things go bad, we must take it as a badge of honor and learn from it. Every fall should lead you with higher rising up.

The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks. – Mark Zuckerberg

Now is the time

If you ask me what I regret most about my teenage years, it would be that I was too busy catching up with school work by going to schools in daytime and then repeating the same work at private classes (tuition) in the evening after school. At the end of the day, most of those time and effort mostly contribute to chasing better scores in exams. It is not a bad thing being excellent in the school but there should be a more beneficial use of the time outside the class. The better way to learn is not following lectures in the class but by actually doing or building things for real, especially in science and technology. If you want to learn how to code, You should start building websites or apps. Want to learn how to sing? Start your own YouTube channel and make videos with cover songs. Want to learn how to write? Start writing your own blog. It is no longer enough with sitting in the class, listening to teachers and swallowing everything by heart. That era of learning by heart should be long gone or you will be left behind. The world is moving faster than ever and you should too.

Before you go

I would like to leave you with a clip from 1999 when Jack Ma pitched his idea of Alibaba to his friends, which I find very inspirational. At least it might give you a dose of motivation.

Cheers!