7 Signs of the Silicon Valley Apocalypse
BY Gene Marks
Forget the Mayans. Ignore the Christians. There are signs of an apocalypse. It's coming to Silicon Valley, home of so many entrepreneurs, VCs, and tech firms.
One of Silicon Valley's top investors announces he's getting out. Y Combinator, the country's top startup "factory," says it's paring down. There's a "Silicon Alley" in New York, "Silicon Roundabout" in London, "Silicon Plateau" in Bangalore, and "Silicon Wadi" in Tel Aviv. Even Russia (yes, Russia) is spending billions to create its own Silicon-Valley type city called Skolkovo because neither "Silicon Gulag" or "Silicon Putin" seemed to have that catchy ring to it.
Friends, readers, fellow business people: are you ready for the apocalypse? You should be. Forget the Mayans. Ignore the Christians. There are signs, like those above, that one is coming. And it's coming to Silicon Valley, home of so many technology companies and venture capital firms.
These are not the only signs. There are other, more compelling ones to justify my prediction. I call them the seven ominous signs of the Silicon Valley apocalypse.
Sign 1: A new reality TV show is based there.
A reality show is a sure sign of hype, overexposure, and future disaster to its hosts. MTV brought Snooki, The Situation and then Hurricane Sandy to the Jersey Shore. A season of Survivor was followed by a killer tsunami in Thailand. And as recently as this year, millions were overcome by uncontrollable vomiting when Courtney Robertson won The Bachelor. So now there's Start-ups: Silicon Valley, complete with characters that enjoy full body spray tans and toga parties. If the Gods rained hurricanes and tsunamis down on the locales and fans of other horrible reality TV shows, one can only imagine the apocalyptic devastation on the way for those living in the Valley. Get out, people. Now.
Sign 2: The women are taking over.
This is surely a sign of catastrophe. Whose idea was it to put competent, capable, smart women like Marissa Mayer, Meg Whitman, and Sheryl Sandberg in charge of Silicon Valley companies? Don't they realize that this is one of the last areas of the world that testosterone-fueled geeks can still look cool without being emasculated by the opposite sex like they were in high school? And wait...aren't some of them having babies while on the job? And still turning around companies and building value? Blasphemy! What's next? A takeover of Sunnyvale's Cogswell Polytechnical College by the Spacely's Space Sprockets University? Investments in non-mobile technology or generating actual--gasp--profits? Is nothing sacred anymore? Nothing good can come from these women. It foretells the end of Silicon Valley.
Sign 3: The rise of Facebook stock.
Just when we thought that rational minds were controlling the stock market, driving down the social media giant's shares more than half from its initial IPO price, now we see that the stock has recovered and gained 30% since its low. This is bad. Don't people realize that once Facebook's fickle, impatient, ADD-inflicted users graduate from high school and college they will ultimately grow bored of the site and leave it for something else to better entertain them that week? Or that, with the onset of big data extraction technology and open programming tools, it will be easier for a competitor to migrate a user's Facebook history somewhere else, either to provide a better experience, or cause a cataclysmic invasion of privacy that will likely bring the service to its knees? Facebook's irrational rise in value is a sure sign that all reason has left Silicon Valley. Destruction will soon follow.
Sign 4: Google Glass.
Once Google was the home of innovation, the bright light of northern California. The company's smart young founders invented new ways to search online and created an industry around ad revenue. And they drew legions of fans anxious to leave the constraints of Microsoft's operating systems and run their applications in the cloud. And now they come up with Google Glass? Really? I understand that this kind of technology will change the way we view data and communicate information. I understand that it has enormous potential. But Google doesn't plan on selling this product to the public until 2014, and likely won't achieve true commercial value for years after that. Don't they realize that this kind of longterm, innovative, life-changing outlook is a disaster for Silicon Valley investors and hangers-on who need profits now? Right now? Can't they just make a few more free apps for the Android to pump up their stock price next week? This kind of never-heard-before long-term-thinking is another reason why the apocalypse is coming to Silicon Valley.
Sign 5: Apple Maps.
News alert: police in Australia now say that Apple Maps can kill you! My company sells Microsoft products so I'm used to lots of problems arising with software. But watching Apple's latest round of map-related screw-ups is particularly delicious. With the passing of Steve Jobs, it's clear that the company has been taken over by mere mortals. And there will be more human-type errors to come. Bring 'em on! That will be fun to watch. But it won't be fun for Silicon Valley. Apple is the bedrock of Silicon Valley. And any cracks in that foundation will surely shake that region to the core. Let's hope Siri finds her voice sometime soon or we could be looking at yet another factor contributing to Silicon Valley's looming demise.
Sign 6: The Cloud.
It's not working. At least not all the time. And services like Gmail, Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter have experienced significant outages over the past year affecting millions of people. Users are not patient, or reasonable. They need their email messages. They rely on Twitter to provide critical status updates to friends. And without Facebook, how else can they upload that hilarious photo of themselves drinking beer through a big funnel on Bourbon Street? Ha ha. Not so funny chum. Another outage or two like these and Silicon Valley will be over-run by hoards of unhappy customers, out for blood not seen since the days of the Goths sacking Rome.
Sign 7: The Fiscal Cliff.
Thanks to the fiscal cliff, tax rates on dividends will rise significantly next year. So what do Silicon Valley CEOs, many of whom supported the President, do? They authorize hundreds of millions of dividends now to avoid the higher rates in 2013. Oracle's Larry Ellison will receive $198 million in dividends alone thanks to this little maneuver. These men are surely devils and this must be yet another sign of the looming cataclysm. (OK, OK. I'm jealous.)
Heed my warning friends. Many believe the apocalypse will happen when the Mayan calendar ends on December 21st. Others of the Christian faith believe that the second coming of the Lord will happen soon. Many great prophets and religious figures predict that the end is near. I don't subscribe to their theories. But I do believe that a Silicon Valley apocalypse approaches.
GENE MARKS is a columnist, author, and small-business owner. He oversees the Marks Group, a 10-person technology consultancy to small and medium-size businesses. A certified public accountant, Marks has also worked in the entrepreneurial services arm of KPMG. He writes for The New York Times, Forbes, and The Huffington Post. @genemarks