NYC, Seattle or Silicon Valley? If You’re A Flounder It Don’t Matter

Every so often a proverbial argument reverberates around the tech world.

It will sound something like “How can we be more like Silicon Valley?”  or, “New York is now a more hip Silicon Valley”

We here in Seattle have even gotten some flack lately from predominant VC’s trying their best to state their respect for the city at the same time point out it’s obvious flaws.  That is a difficult position to hold for sure.

Then this was written last weekend on GeekWire.  Choice quote: What we do need is to go and build some fucking companies.

I must say I was a bit taken back with Kirill’s approach.  It just felt like someone blowing his hardest in an effort to make a forest fire burn stronger.

But ya know, I do agree with Kirill  in principal.  Yes, we all need shut up and go build some companies.  And let me also agree with others who are stating “there is just something unique about the valley… and as a founder you should start your company here.”  It does not take a genius to realize there are certain subtle aspects about Silicon Valley which can help founders build great companies.

But let me frame this argument slightly differently: If a founder builds the next billion dollar company outside the valley, is he in fact a better entrepreneur since he did it without the resources and luxury of Silicon Valley?  What if he did it without going to Stanford?  How about without being part of the latest YC batch?

I say Yes.

Or read differently: are we just mind-sweeping ourselves into thinking since we aren’t in Silicon Valley we cannot build great technology companies.  Although not the entire reason, I believe this is playing a somewhat significant role in the perception of the “Silicon Valley Only Success.”

Let me go on record as saying there is more than one city in the country.  There are also millions of people who (currently employer or unemployed) are not in the valley and would almost die for a great opportunity.  There is also something called the web, something that has connected humans and money like nothing ever before in history.  My point: proximity is getting less and less important is time goes on.

But Nick, why the typo in the title?

Being a Founder is one thing.  I think that describes the ones who start companies and instantly compare themselves to Silicon Valley . They use the word Founder like it’s a surname.  They are worried about “who funds them, who’s party they are going to, who will be their next prominent acquisition, who is writing about them, etc.. ”  Founders get sucked into tunnel vision, influenced by group think and worried what the Jones’s are doing.   They have two eyes looking straight ahead and focused on the ground.

Don’t get me wrong, these things are important to the success of a company.  But they are not the only thing  just as makeup, dresses and friends don’t really make the ultimate girl.

Being a Flounder is a whole other level of entrepreneur.  They have one eye on the ground and one on the horizon.  Ever notice flounders (the fish) seem to be looking in two directions at once?  That’s called vision.  And I believe the best entrepreneurs always have one eye on the ground (present) and one eye on the horizon (future).  They are Flounders.

A Flounder isn’t bothered by where he builds his empire.  He just builds it.  He doesn’t care if his company isn’t written about as the next hottest thing.  He builds it large enough and becomes the largest thing.  Flounders have such a strong sense of purpose they attract others to join the mission and turn any naysayer on their head with amazing and consistent results.  Flounders have an eerie way of being calm in the storm, so much so they freak you out.  Why?  Flounders can see what you can’t.

So next time you start to fall into the Founder hole, think Flounder.  Think Vision.  Think about seeing with one eye here and one eye over there on the horizon.  You will start to realize most of the B.S. all other founders are talking/bitching/complaining about really, in the end, doesn’t add up to much.  With better perspective Flounders see the big picture and stay the course.