Silicon Valley’s Meh Middle

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The Silicon Valley myth doesn’t leave much room for companies that are neither spectacular successes nor spectacular fires. But to fully understand the tech industry and ensure that its goals don’t get derailed, we need to talk more about the companies that are in the middle.

You probably know the myth I am referring to. There are wild stories of companies that started with almost nothing and grew to become Apple, Facebook or Uber. Then there are the horror stories of start-ups that flopped brightly and spectacularly, like the first iteration of office rental start-ups. we work and blood test company theranos.

They are polar opposite start-ups write books and make movies about. Untouchable and unforgivable are the images we hold in the minds of technology companies.

But most of life is not success or failure, it is intertwined, and this applies to most startups as well. There exists a vast middle ground of overlooked young tech companies that are certainly not winners, but not losers either.

I’m talking about companies like Dropbox, Box and Cloudera which were once quite hot cover of Business The magazines have survived but have hardly set the world on fire. They are not whales nor are they minnows. Dropbox, a digital file-storage service, costs as much as Levi Strauss.

Buying their stock didn’t make a group of people super rich. Cloudera, which sells software for businesses to compress their data, agreed to sell the company on Tuesday For a share price that was far less than what a large investor would have paid when Cloudera was a relatively young start-up in 2014. Dropbox and Box, which is also a business software company, are worth roughly the same or less than they were in the days it went public in 2018 (Dropbox) and 2015 (Box). These companies’ technologies either didn’t prove to be super relevant or were replaced for something better.

There are a lot of start-ups that took off during the tech boom after the financial crisis, earning oohs from tech experts and throwing a lot of money at them, making initial public offerings and then… eh. They are fine. Others were sold or quietly disappeared.

(One caveat: I may have put the square in the middle of meh for the past year or so, when its technology, including digital storefronts for small businesses, proved crucial during the coronavirus pandemic. This suggests that companies can sometimes shift from meh to great, or from meh to dead.)

The problem is that people in and around technology are happy to be scared about companies it’s going to be huge, and rarely mention them when they don’t become stars.

Ignoring the meridian should be important to all of us for two reasons. First, a missed opportunity to understand what went right and what went wrong. I joke on twitter There must be a Midas list for meh, referring to the annual forbes ranking One of the most successful start-up investors. And why not? For those and companies who didn’t live up to the hype, there may be lessons for us.

and second, leaving the middle distorts the picture of Silicon Valley and reflects a harmful tendency to consider Nothing less than a world changing idea deserves attention. This creates a perverse incentive to innovate and ignore start-up ideas, which can result in worthy but untapped companies.

I wish Just OK gets more attention. Could lead Google and Facebook to shoot the moon in Silicon Valley. It could also lead to WeWork and Theranos. I don’t want meh to be the target, but I also want the people in the middle to not be so invisible.

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