In or Out

Either you are in or you’re out. It’s that simple.

Thousands of entrepreneurs flocked to Silicon Valley during the Internet gold rush. They were all fully aware of this concept. It is very, very difficult to produce breakthrough ideas, products or companies living within a bubble.

Give me where to stand, and I will move the earth.- Archimedes

Peter Bichsel treats this topic rather humorously in his short story “Der Erfinder” (The Inventor). It is about an inventor that puts all his time, effort and passion into creating new inventions. However, upon returning to the city from his hideaway laboratory to show off his new inventions, he is repeatedly rebuffed and laughed at. Time after time and invention after invention he finds that his “new” inventions have already been introduced to society. Nevertheless, as a persistent and determined inventor he returns to his laboratory to truly invent something new.

Of course, he never succeeds. Other authors through history have addressed this issue. John Donne in Meditation 17 , for example: “No man is an island unto himself”. Working outside of an environment where things “are happening” means additional challenges for the businessman, entrepreneur, artist, designer, etc.

Being in the right place doesn’t keep you current; that’s what Business 2.0 or The Economist is for. Being in the right place keeps you ahead of the curve. You have the opportunity to get the inside track months before anyone is writing about it.

Three short weeks in Seattle, WA was all it took to bring this idea home. Seattle, a city with technology heavyweights like Microsoft, Amazon.com and Real Networks and large investors like Vulcan Ventures (founded by Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder), is “happening” place to be. I can only imagine what San Francisco and Silicon Valley have to be like.

Being in the right place makes a large difference on many levels: strategic, operational, partnerships, financing, etc. If you work with video, for example, and live in Seattle there is a high probability that either you know someone who works at Real Networks ( http://www.real.com ) or you can easily get in touch with someone who does. This makes it much easier for you and your company to reach agreements with or collaborate with Real Networks- something that would almost be unfeasible from Barcelona, Spain, for example. There are simply too many barriers to overcome.

Coopetition and cooperation is more viable when all members of a value chain can work together to provide complete business solutions. Competencies, skill sets and technological ability that your individual firm may lack, can be (more or less) easily obtained through another local company by way of a bi-lateral, synergistic partnership. And, this agreement is usually reached and proposed through friends.

So, what to do if you don’t live in Silicon Valley, Seattle, London or Amsterdam? Well, get out to your local networking event and meet people. Barcelona is quite small- you always seem to run into the same people…very much like in Seattle. Use it to your advantage to make things happen…if you’re not out there you’re out of the loop. Because like everywhere- either you’re in or you’re out.

Until next time- Happy Networking!

Jason Ball

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