Surfing Silicon Valley’s Second Wave
Time is running out on the traditional transactional sales model. Today’s competitive business environment simply will not allow for companies to push the features of their products or services on unsuspecting or unwilling customers. Rather, success will be determined by how well companies transform the sales process to focus on the prosperity of their customers.
Meet Max Levchin. He’s a Russian immigrant who learned English by watching “Diff’rent Strokes” on television. He’s scared of water. But he also is a computer genius with a competitive drive as long as California’s Route 66. Levchin may not be a household name, but the Internet application he created certainly is. Levchin and a bunch of young geniuses like him started PayPal, arguably one of the World Wide Web’s most recognizable payment systems.
Like his partners, Levchin became a millionaire when eBay purchased PayPal. Like the others, he took a cushy job and, at age 27, considered an early retirement. But the itch — that indescribable desire to leave a lifelong mark on a company, an industry, the world — would not let Levchin rest.
Captains of the Second Wave
Levchin and his cronies are the main characters in Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good: The Rebirth of Silicon Valley and the Rise of Web 2.0. In this book, author Sarah Lacy tells the story of how a new group of Web entrepreneurs rose out of the proverbial ashes that was the dot-com bubble, which dramatically burst in 2000.
This second wave of Internet entrepreneurs, the architechs of Web 2.0, did more than move bricks-and-mortar companies into cyberspace. They took an original look at the Web, and they emphasized the one thing that they loved about it. And that was the relationships people found when they surfed, blogged and left feedback all over the Web.
The Intrepid Reporter
Author Lacy is the closest to what some might call a Silicon Valley veteran. She has been a reporter there for a decade, slogging through the dotcom bust when other writers had moved on to other stories. Lacy writes a biweekly column for BusinessWeek.com called “Valley Girl” and is co-host of Yahoo! Finance’s Tech Ticker.
Levchin is a veteran as well. PayPal was his ticket to fame and fortune, a genuine “Web 1.0” success story. Rather than leave the Valley behind, he started calling old friends, convincing them to try again. During one of their bull sessions, Levchin and friends came up with a prototypical Web 2.0 company. Known by the one-word moniker of Yelp, the site serves as a Yellow Pages of sorts for the smart set — it lets users rate their favorite places, whether it is a restaurant, day spa or pet shop.
Yelp is a classic example of a 2.0 company. Not only are reviews written by those who live and work in the area, but the reviewers also can post information about themselves on the site. That way, if you find a reviewer you respect, you can follow that person’s ideas everywhere. Other sites these 2.0 entrepreneurs launched are immediately recognizable. There are Digg, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Friendster. Then there are the behind-the-scenes players — Slide, Six Apart and Revision3 — that help make the Web work like the seamless tool that it is.
Who Are Those Guys?
Behind every site is a personality, and it is their stories that make Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good a book worth reading. Some of the major players come off like Silicon Valley punks, and rather unpleasant ones at that. But most of the characters make the reader rally behind them, hoping that their simple ideas become that of Web 2.0 legend.