The Ultimate Outsider…

I’ve had a couple of conflicting experiences in the past couple of days here at the Web 2.0 Conference. Two days ago I had dinner with one of the founders from cool Danish company called Zendesk (whose mascot, appropriately enough as we'll see, is a smiling buddha) – I wrote a review of their product in the middle of last year which, according to my Zendesk buddy, was the first trigger to them reaching a critical mass that has propelled them to stardom. Admittedly he’d had a couple of beers and was pretty verbose, but It felt like I was the shoulders upon which these guys elevated themselves.

While I take his comments for the flattery that they are, it’s pretty cool to think that a simple hack sitting in rural North Canterbury (that’s in New Zealand for the offshore readers) can make that sort of difference. Of course I’ve got to give some context to this post by saying that I’m a little bit of a fish out of water. I’ve landed in Silicon Valley but my usual digs is a 12 acre farmlet with a bunch of chickens and sheep running around – as far both physically and psychologically from The Valley as one can be.

I’m also aware that I’m surrounded by a bunch of people that share a context, and in many cases actually know each other from working together.

So onto the second experience… yesterday afternoon I left a session in order to charge my laptop. I managed to find a table and plugged myself in. There were a bunch of folks around me chatting away and, being the egalitarian sort of Kiwi I am I waded on in and said gidday (that’s Kiwi talk for hello for the offshore readers!) Maybe it’s the accent, maybe they’re just really good friends but my presence was obviously unappreciated.

I was amused to hear five minutes later when their discussion moved on to gaining market awareness for internet business – funnily enough they mentioned the desire to be covered by an outlet like one of those that I write for – and how that sort of coverage would be their very own tipping point.

My contention is that Silicon Valley is such a massive self-referencing echo-chamber, that two things happen;

  1. Some “internet rock stars” get elevated to a stardom totally beyond what is justified and their influence over the mass market is greatly exaggerated
  2. Valley dwellers are almost totally unaware of the fact that there’s a market, and even influence, outside of the Valley

So no pearls of wisdom from me – after all I’m just here to observe what goes on. I will say though that businesses like Zendesk, with the understanding that the stranger they’re talking to could actually be important,will be less likely to miss out on opportunities than those who are to busy spotting superstars… It's all about Karma, as Zendesk understand!