“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead.
The conference I just attended made me realize how quickly things are changing in the Valley technologically and culturally.
I’ve followed the debate on pattern matching and funding inequality closely and I was greatly disillusioned with the VC and Angel community. It just seemed so backwards and such an impenetrable boys’ club. The organizations and products that were being created emphasized that disparity even more. The products, originally conceived as a channel to democratize access to content was suddenly becoming an invitation-only playground for the influential. Networks like svbtle and ‘LinkedIn Influencers’ deepened this divide even more by giving a bigger megaphone to the already loud and authoritative leaders.
It started to feel like my high school, filled with entitled cliquey rich kids. A country where the wealthy own all the opportunity and the poor and middle-class truly depend on trickle-down economics. The trickle-down is more of a slow and slimy drip to feed the masses.
Shortly after a period of innocuous cultural revolution, a new crop of folks started to come out the woodwork. First, Marc Barros launched a Hardware Workshop and charged $50 bucks a head for a kick-ass hands-on workshop. Looking back, that was a faint signal of good things to come.
Then, out of the blue, Marc Andreessen, one of the smartest and most influential entrepreneurs (turned VC) started tweeting tirelessly and interacting mercilessly with the community. Twitter basically turned into “What is Marc Tweeting Now.” Marc pushes the edges of technological innovation beyond the comfort or social media iterative copy-cat innovation.
After that I get an email from Jason Calacanis about the LAUNCH Conference.
I’d forgotten about this event and I’d dismissed it as yet-another-twitter-love-fest with no depth. Boy, was I wrong. It was fantastic, eye opening, engaging and most importantly, inclusive. Startups from Atlanta, Detroit, Redwood City, New York and other cities showed up en masse.
There was one of particular happy accident that can only happen at conference like LAUNCH. A little Detroit startup called visionboards.co caught the attention of Marc Cuban as he walked down the startup corridor. The founder of Vision Boards told me that he tore up the interface but said that he liked the idea and left the door open to a possible investment.
That sense of inclusiveness and possibility is what is missing here and Marc Andreessen and Jason Calacanis are renewing the dream with their actions.
This is at the core of what the Silicon Valley is and why people come here.