Thursday, June 10, 2004

Californ.ia

San Francisco. Still the same, yet very different. The hills are steeper than I remember. Or I'm a little slower. The police cars still fly over the hills, just like in "the streets of". The crazies seem more abundant. It's the only city in the state that doesn't like Arnold; maybe they all want to marry him and he doesn't want to. Broadband is $9.95 a day in the hotel through a cable; yet there are half a dozen wireless networks within reach, as long as you're high up it seems. Some of the buildings are so empty there is tumbleweed in the car park: Excite@home, Manugistics. The 280 is calmer and easier, until there's an accident and then it's like it used to be. Yet there's more vibrancy than the last time which was a couple of years ago or so. And, despite the flags flying at half mast to commemorate Ronald Reagan, the California Republic flag is still flying strong. I'm over here for a few days visiting friends and near family. Following up on a few things, a few companies and a few people. I was struck today by a comment at Google. When we buy companies we're doing it for the people there - what they've built so far just comes along as part of their CV. They've not bought much so far, although blogger comes to mind. Last night at dinner a VC told me that it was all about the people; VCs back management teams, not ideas - because every idea will fail in some way and it's the managers that can pull it back on the tracks and make it work. So the vibrancy is in the people and the people seem more positive, more upbeat and more excited. Maybe it's the upcoming Google capitalisation which many say will usher in a new era of exit strategies for those who have been tied up for 3 or 4 years. It's an exciting place. It might be 10 or 15 degrees colder than London but it's always been over air-conditioned here. This is a country that has a 2 second delay on live TV now so that the "Janet Jackson" thing doesn't happen again, a country that will fine a TV company that Janets up to $500,000, yet someone who takes bolt cutters onto a plane is probably fined 100th of that. But it's a country where, for me, the action is. Startups come and go as quickly as restaurants on the main streets, but the spirit is strong here for me. It's still as exciting as it's always been. Very much the same, but very much different.

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