Archive for the ‘Ruminations’ Category

Your Tech Startup Doesn’t Need to be in Silicon Valley.



By Jeremiah Owyang @jowyang, living in Silicon Valley since 1997.

My long-time, close friend, Chris Saad, wrote a helpful essay on 39 tips for startups. He shares many suggestions, based on his personal experience, in the startup world, from his home country of Australia, and in Palo Alto, and in the heart SF’s tech district SoMa.

While I agree with 38 of his tips and suggestions, I’d like to discuss the merits of tip number one. Dear readers please know, I first chatted with Chris in advance, he was aware I was writing this, as I certainly don’t like to surprise a friend.

Chris gives startups the following suggestion as his opening tip:

#1: “Be in Silicon valley. Yes you can succeed in other places, but the chances of any business succeeding are so small, why start with a disadvantage? Some argue that the ecosystem in their area is “getting better” or they’re “going to help build the ecosystem along the way”. Trust me, as someone who’s tried, It’s hard enough building and driving the train, you can’t lay the tracks at the same time!”

I’ve seen many successful startups emerge and flourish outside of Silicon Valley, like Hootsuite, Jive, Bazaarvoice, Omniture, Spredfast, Sprinklr, BuddyMedia, BlaBlaCar, Freelancer, and a plethora of Chinese tech companies that are worth billions and billions, so I guess that rules out any suggestion that all startups must be in Silicon Valley.

Of course, that’s not what Chris was suggesting, his point is that it’s easier to have a successful startup if you’re in the tech center of planet Earth. Oh, and I agree, in most situations, but let’s first break down the pros and cons of having your startup be in Silicon Valley, before we rule on any universal truths.

Here’s the pro and cons, in two simple bulleted lists.

Upsides of having your startup in Silicon Valley:

  1. In proximity to VC funding, money is literally falling out of trees.
  2. In an environment where new ideas are embraced, failure accepted.
  3. Connected to tech talent, and seasoned partners and advisors.
  4. New ideas quickly emerge, a source of innovative thinking.
  5. Fantastic climate, diverse culture, and high-quality of living.

Downsides of having your startup in Silicon Valley:

  1. Expensive, 1 bed apt are $3,250 in SoMa, and office rent is sky-high.
  2. Competitive salaries challenge loyalty; tech salaries are $100k–350k
  3. Myopia to other cultures, a limit if you’re aiming at other regions.
  4. Entangled traffic in bay area makes commuting a frustrating challenge.
  5. Tech bros, glasshole douchebags, SF aroma is weed+urine, ahem.

Now that we’ve explored the ups and downs of situating your beloved startup in tech mecca, we can reframe the discussion to When it makes sense to have your startup in Silicon Valley. It makes sense to have your startup be based in Silicon Valley if you’re heavily VC backed, or already rich, or if your talent base is in this network, or if you’re seeking a culture of constant innovation. It doesn’t make sense if you’re in an area that already has a tech talent ecosystem, is focused on a different market like Europe or NY media and publishing, or are not cash laden.

So there you have it, your tech startup doesn’t need to be in Silicon Valley, but instead, know when to use pros and cons to your advantage.

Salut to Chris, for sparking this interesting topic, you should follow him on twitter @chrissaad and check out his site. I originally posted this on Medium, and there’s a thriving discussion about this essay, over here on Facebook, and on Linkedin.

Jeremiah’s new venture; moving on from Altimeter


I’m starting a new company to help progressive corporations tap into the Collaborative Economy.

I’ll be leaving Altimeter in my current role, but will remain connected as I join Altimeter’s Board of Advisors.

One of the advantages of being an industry analyst is being able to see what’s coming in the future.  To address this transformation, large corporations are going to need help to manage this radical market change.  In the coming weeks, I’ll share my plans for this new venture.

It’s amazing to see four years at Altimeter Group go by so quickly.  We’ve accomplished so much. The kickoff, our first conference, and the publication of Open Research reports, we have helped clients adopt disruptive technologies.

My business partner of four years, Charlene Li, has been very supportive of me in launching this next venture, and shares her thoughts.  As I continue to support the firm, I’ll be finishing up specific client projects, and I’ll be joining Altimeter’s board of advisors where I’ll continue to support the firm.

Perhaps most important, I will continue my friendships with all the great folks at the firm that I care about so deeply.  Altimeter clients will still be able to work with analysts like Charlene Li, Brian Solis, Susan Etlinger, Rebecca Lieb, and the growing consulting and research team.

I’d love to hear from you, contact me if you want to discuss this exciting new opportunity (or peruse my body of work) as progressive corporations tap the Collaborative Economy:


Pay Yourself First


Apple World

Research, workout, or write down your thoughts each morning. Don’t check email, as that’s paying someone else.

Email, while a dominant form of business communication isn’t effective: The more you respond, the more emails you’ll receive. The tool is over burdened for its initial use case. You’re teaching your network you’ll forever be reactive.

I pay myself first. I focus my priorities on the tools that will maximize my time. For example, rather than responding to multiple emails or conversations on one topic, I leverage broadcasting tools, like this very weblog.

This isn’t a new concept, as many financial advisers will suggest that you invest in your future (funds, roth, 401) before fully paying down your debt. In the long run, your compounded growth of investing in larger payoffs will yield a greater nest egg. This same concept applies to how you spend your time, each morning.

Imagine if everyone around us (colleagues, partners, vendors, family) was a little less reactive, and instead invested a bit more growing themselves, perhaps we’d all be better off.

So there you go, resist the instinct to dive into email each morning, instead pay yourself by reading, investing in your wellbeing, or sharing your insights with others. You’ll increase your value by growing, demonstrate to your network you’re not just reactive, and you’ll hopefully feel that you’ve accomplished more.

Ergo, pay yourself first each morning, don’t check email, as that’s paying someone else.

I originally posted elements of this concept a few years ago (and more recently, on Medium), but begs to be resurfaced, as we all need to be reminded of it from time to time.

Sneak Preview: Upcoming Blog Redesign


This will be the fourth, (or wait, fifth? I can’t keep track over the years…) design iteration of the Web Strategy blog, and I’m pleased to share an upcoming sneak peek comp.

Overall, we leaned on a focus on accessing information quickly –rather than a complete new look, you’ll notice many of the same familiar UI elements, but with greater access to reports, graphs, and popular posts that may be ideal to reference.

We’re thankful for your feedback (we listened, responded, and factored it in) so I really want you to know how important your feedback is. If you’ve any other final comments, kindly leave a comment below. Thanks to the Engage Sciences web design team for their assistance, and for WordPress Expert (he really knows his stuff) StudioNashVegas who’ll start production shortly, and we’ll have a staging site up for testing.

A few design notes on how I plan to serve you better:

  • You’ll see a mixture of the best features from comp 1 and 2 (link above)
  • Reduced dead space like header and banner –just get to the point dangit!
  • We’re gonna try something new and show a waterfall of posts, so the most recent post will have more content, but older posts will display less –in order to prevent excess scrolling.
  • I’m surfacing events higher up, as a big part of my business is professional speaking and webinars, I’d like to further promote them
  • Lastly, because this blog is often used as a reference to find research, stats, lists, webinars, we’ve created a library-like section at the bottom for faster indexing and ability to quickly retrieve beyond search methods.

Below, if you click on this screenshot, you’ll see the life size version, I look forward to any comments you have below, your reactions?

Web Strategy Blog Redesign, Q3, 2011

Five Steps To Take a Vacation in a Highly Connected World


What? Are you serious? Who needs a guide on how to take a vacation? As we become more connected through mobile devices, our always-on jobs, and our expanding online social networks, it’s harder to break away from the physical aspects of work, and even more importantly, the developing mental separation from work and daily life woes to really relax and recharge.

This was my first time unplugged in a few years, and now that Altimeter Group is continuing to safely grow (and hiring) it was a good time to take two weeks completely away from work, and week completely unplugged in the remote Fiji islands.

Well, I should point the finger at myself first, as I live and work, a highly connected lifestyle. It was hard for me to take time off, but I was successfully able to disconnect, both the wireless connection –and mental disconnection from work. I want to share five steps on how to have a successful vacation when you’re a highly connected individual.

Five Steps To Take a Vacation in a Highly Connected World:

Step 1: Take a Vacation. Really. Take one. Or at least, plan for one right now. In fact, the American workforce is less likely to take vacation than many other industrialized nations. Even if your budgets or schedule is limited, take a staycation. Lower cost alternatives include camping at your local beach and national park, or even staying in a nice hotel in your home city on the other side of town.

Step 2: Properly Plan To Leave Woes Behind. make some deals with your colleagues that they will cover for you when you’re gone, and you’ll do the same for them. Then, let your customers, clients, partners, and other important folks, at least 30 days in advance, to set expectations. Lastly, let folks know you’ll be completely disconnected, and they should send you important emails that require action to your colleagues, or after you return: set expectations. Special thanks to Altimeter’s Julie Viola, Christine Tran, Andrew Jones, Charlene Li, and others for covering for me during my downtime.

Step 3: Unplug, Even Forcibly If Needed. So the best way for me to be unplug is to go to an area where there’s no electronic devices, and spent time island in the remote Fiji islands where there’s no cars, TVs, radio, internet, for most islands, you don’t have to go to the other side of the planet to do this, just leave your electronics in the hotel safe. If you truly lack self control, you can disconnect, unpower your devices, or even have your carriers cut off access for a short period of time. Taking time off from social networks (even beyond your vacation) is a good ideas. See what happened when I took a few weeks off from Twitter, my world was just fine.

Step 4: Use Your “Idea Freezer”. Physically being on the beach is much different than mentally being on the beach. One trick to deploy is having a way to shed ideas, so you can resume them after you return –without them interfering into your peaceful brain. The best way is to have a ‘mental freezer’ such as a notepad (I always carry a Moleskine see how I use it to stay organized) by the bed stand to write down any invasive work idea came into your head whatever they are. Quickly slay those ideas, by putting pen to paper, and leaving them in the freezer and expanding your mindshare for other ideas. After a few days, you should settle into your relaxing vacation, worry-free. The great thing about the idea freezer is that they will be there when it’s time to come to reality, all thawed out.

Step 5: Do a Counter Cycle. It’s so easy to yearn to go back to our daily routine so try new experience to expand your mind. Do something opposite to your daily routine (hence the “counter cycle”): exercise, read leisurely books, or just get some sun I find that mixing with different cultures gives me a unique perspective I can take home and reapply to life and work. For example, spending time with the leisurely Fijians on “Fiji Time” (which is far slower than Hawaiian time) helped me to refocus on what’s really important in life.

If you’ve followed these steps, of actually planning, unplugging, then mentally refreshing yourself on your holiday, congratulations, you’ve successfully taken a vacation in a highly connected world, and are ready to return to the land of the connected. Update: Also see Boston Innovation’s group “Why you need a vacation“.

(Update: Fiji pics are now live on Flickr)

Thank you Forrester, a Grand Adventure!


Thank you Forrester!  When I announced I’d be joining Forrester nearly two years ago, I knew it would have been one of the best moves in my career. I certainly feel I was right. Being a Forrester Analyst is a top role to have in any industry, and one that I’ll bear proudly for the rest of my professional career.

Working with the industry’s smartest minds in marketing, strategy, and social has been fantastic, the quality of my colleagues has always kept me learning.  During my tenure I’ve been given the opportunity to segment the crowded community platform market, identify spending trends in social, and forecast the future of the social web.  As one would expect, one of the greatest benefits of being an industry analyst is seeing where trends are pointing and identify the direction of the market.  Having studied this market in-depth as an analyst, I’m looking forward to getting back into the field to apply them.

For those currently working with Forrester, my ever-gracious hiring manager Christine gives details on my transition and will keep the dialog going.  As she points out, there’s a whole team of analysts that are focused on the social marketing, I’d like to recognize a few of my immediate colleagues  Nate Elliott, Sean Corcoran, Emily Riley and of course luminary Josh Bernoff, who’s now working on his next book.  I’ve relied on them for research and projects, and you should too.

Thank you so much for letting me serve the social space as an industry analyst –I look forward to the years of growth ahead.   So let’s keep in touch, I want to get your feedback about my next role that I’ll be announcing next week, you can email me at jeremiah_owyang at or connect with me on Twitter.