While I may or may not know how to be successful in silicon valley, I feel pretty confident that I can point out a few ways to not be successful in valley terms. What follows is my thoughts on how you can best limit yourself to own, run, or be involved in the entrepreneurial spirit of the valley.
The first is keeping yourself in a bubble, by not diving into the new technologies, new services, and new age of the web there’s little possibility you can be at the next steps of it. While I concede you don’t always have to explain it or understand it, you at least need to use it. The prestigious attitude of standing against something just for the sake of it won’t get you very far when people attempt to find you and communicate and can’t. There will be few individuals in the future similar to Jobs and Ellison that are a box of mysteries that no one has access to. Instead you will simply filter out noise that is relevant, but regardless your presence will be felt. It’s not only about making your life easier with useful tools like mint or dropbox and thinking about the next useful utility, but also about communicating and relating to others. Final thought … facebook be on it, twitter use it (don’t understand it, don’t explain it, just use it), friendfeed (jury’s out, but you better know what it is).
The second biggest thing you can do is to be patient. So many seem to sit around, wanting to have their own big thing, but are waiting for that one great idea to come to them. In most cases something probably does, the only problem is they’re not seasoned or practiced at building something. Yeah a few get lucky on the first try, but as a whole for those that are successful its due to persistence and not patience. Waiting for the right time in the market, the right time in your life, or just the right idea is wasting time you can’t get back. If you truly want to run something, start running something, and when the right idea does finally come along you’ll be prepared to build it up and run with it.
Third thing you can do is not to network. Yeah it’s easier than before to build a product and get people to adopt it because of the web, but that doesn’t mean you can do it on your own. If you want to have a great idea with a lot of potential go to waste, sit at home on a Friday night, work away alone and you will have no worries about having too much traffic or too many users. Most likely your idea will only appeal to you and miss various features and miss the needs of some of the users that would have been happy to tell you what they wanted.
Fourth, spend all your time networking. So you go to the events, meet the people, know people to fund you, have a great idea, and finally decide you’re going to actually start working on a product. The same night you sit down to code, you read of your product launching with someone else. With less funding, less knowledge, and less experience, all because they’ve actually been working on it. It’s a fine balance, but err on the side of not having every connection that you will need for a successful launch, and instead having a working demo or product to show to the connections that you do have.