While I have not been happy with this season’s Michigan Football, and do think that Coach Carr was out-coached by both the Buckeyes and Trojans at the end of last season, I was pleased to see these words from the embattled Carr about the upcoming game with Ohio State:
You embrace the pressure because the competition is why you play. It's why you coach. More than anything else, it's about competing to the best of your ability in a game you love and to try to achieve something with a group of people that you care about.
That sentiment speaks to the attitude found throughout Silicon Valley and provides a clue to its success.
Some people in the Valley simply work for their paycheck, and that’s okay. The top workers in the Valley, however, work for the challenge of achieving success in the face of difficult competition, and for these people meeting that challenge provides much of the satisfaction that drives them in their work. There’s no escaping this mentality in the Valley, it’s everywhere.
Stock options are often the most visible motivators in the Valley and are valuable motivators and rewards for many (just ask this masseuse), but they are often simply apparitions of false rewards that misdirect motivations. The Valley provides the opportunity for ambitious entrepreneurs to pursue their ambitions of competitive success, assuming that those ambitions allow for the success of funding venture capitalists.
One of the qualities that venture capitalists most value, not surprisingly, is a management team that is experienced in the field of their business plan and who display a desire for success and resilience to fight through inevitable difficulties. In the face of roadblocks and problems, those motivated only by stock options will quit and pursue seemingly brighter paths. Those who remain are those dedicated to their field and who find satisfaction in conquering those challenges.
To understand this mentality, all you have to do is spend some time with entrepreneurs at various meetings in the Bay Area to feel their heat and desire to succeed. This is the je ne sais quoi of Silicon Valley—that certain something that continues to allow this region of the country to be so successful in technology. You feel the urge for technological development in Palo Alto as strongly as you feel the urge for filmmaking when in Santa Monica.
People talk and exude their passion for their work here whenever possible—I recall a July 4th party last year where I ended up talking with Bill Atkinson about his latest work with Jeff Raskin’s company Numenta and their approach to modeling cortical processes. Not your usual picnic conversation about baseball, hotdogs, and Chevrolet—Bill spoke as if this was these were the most critical ideas ever worth discussing. It was the kind of passion that one finds over and over again among successful people in the Valley.
And among top football coaches, which is what got me started on this tangent about worth ethic in Silicon Valley. Even here, though, if you go the equivalent of 1–6 against Ohio State’s latest coach, not even a tier 3 VC would provide bridge funding to keep your entrepreneurial dreams afloat. Good luck on Saturday, Coach Carr.