Advice for the New Guard in Silicon Valley

It was recently announced that Terry Semel, former co-chairman of Warner Bros. Will take over as chairman and CEO of Yahoo! This signifies a huge changing of the guard. It’s time for the Old Economy entertainment mogul menschen to take over from the young technophiles. Because, at the end of the day, as they like to say in Hollywood (and as they are learning in Silicon Valley), you need to show a profit.

Unless Terry plans to go digital all the way, and operate the company virtually from LA, he will have to adjust to his new surroundings in Santa Clara at a company which has become identified as the symbol of Internet culture. This means Terry will have to leave a land of pampering, pedicures and limo rides for Silicon Valley’s ethic of personal control and do-it-yourself.

Having made the transition myself. I thought I’d offer you some pointers Terry. It’ll save you some learning time. And as you’ll soon find out, the Valley loves nothing like the appearance of efficiency. Zay gezunt.

  • The deli situation is hopeless. You’ll have to fly it in from Canter’s or Nate ‘n Als.
  • Technology CEOs don’t respond well to fruit gift baskets. If you want to acknowledge them, just be sure to say hi the next time you’re shopping at Fry’s.
  • If the Valley were a sandwich, it’d be a ham and cheese with mayo on white. With the crusts cut off. And served on a TV tray.
  • A personal assistant fits in your pocket. It does not get your dry cleaning or latté.
  • Silicon is used for chips, not breasts.
  • There is nowhere to “be seen.”
  • “Doing lunch” means getting a tamale at the Chili’s in a strip mall on Corte Madera.
  • Formal in Silicon Valley means: get fully dressed, then remove one piece of fleece.
  • If you want your emotional outburst to be felt, have it translated into a 3-D pie graph.
  • The closest Valley people get to the movies, is playing with their laser pointers on the screen at the latest action flick.
  • Even the lightest delivery of “you son of a bitch” during negotiations, will not be interpreted as affectionate.
  • No one knows any Yiddish. Just acronyms.
  • Status gifts comes in the smallest, not the biggest, packages.
  • A “plug-in” isn’t another way to fight balding. It’s software.
  • In Hollywood, inaccessibility is part of the power game. Not only do Valley executives take their calls, they invest in very expensive services and technology to enable them to be reached anytime, anywhere.
  • Forget your gut instincts. Everyone here wants to know what you think.
  • In film production terms, it’s as if the grips ran the studios.
  • Unlike Hollywood, everyone in the Valley is still under the impression things are achieved through a meritocracy.
  • No unions. The employees work unlimited hours in exchange for speculative options.
  • For engineers: the better it looks, the worse it must be.
  • Forget the Oscars. Pride is having your expensive toy car win the Sandhill Soapbox Derby.
  • They buy retail here.
  • You will be expected to occasionally wear an embroidered denim shirt. And yes, you will have booth duty.
  • In the Valley, the people are genuine. It’s only the business models that are fake.