One of the more annoying logical fallacies of the post-gatekeeper era is that because so many people/companies/groups can do something, then the overall output is worthless. We hear this all the time. For example, people will claim that "blogging" sucks, because many blogs suck, and it doesn't have the same standards as journalism. That, of course, ignores the many excellent blogs out there. Similarly, we hear about how the world is now "flooded" with crappy music, because it's so easy to record and distribute songs online. The problem with this argument is that it makes a few really dumb assumptions, including the idea that relative quality is more important than absolute quality. It also is based on a lack of understanding of totally independent events.
That there may be a ton of crappy blogs out there has no impact whatsoever on quality blogs. That there's lots more music out there that you don't like, doesn't mean that there's less music that you do like. In fact, in both cases, the fact that it's easier to create and distribute such things actually increases the likelihood that the amount of actual quality increases. You just ignore the bad stuff and rely on better filters to find the good stuff.
Still, we usually hear this argument applied to content. So I was a bit surprised to see someone named Hermione Way basically making the exact same logical fallacy when it came to Silicon Valley as a whole
. Her complaint? Too many startups here are working on trivial things, and somehow that's some sort of threat to Silicon Valley itself. This is the same thing as saying that there's no good music anymore, because there's so much bad music out there. The fact that there are some startups in Silicon Valley that are doing trivial things does not change the fact that there are many others doing amazing, world-changing things. The fact that there are some who go into startups and see them as get-rich-quick opportunities, does not impact the huge number of folks here who do not view startups this way (and, honestly, anyone who views startups as a way to get-rich-quick has probably never worked at a real startup).
Let me flip the argument on its head. Is there any place in the world that has a huge concentration of "world changing startups" that doesn't
also have a bunch of frivolous and trivial startups hanging on as well? Of course not. I'd argue that if you stopped looking at the relative level of "world changingness" and instead looked at the "absolute" level, you'd be hard pressed to argue that more world-changing innovation comes from a single location than comes out of Silicon Valley.
That there are trivial companies mixed in as well doesn't take away from that. In fact, it often can help
the world-changing innovations take place. That's because in this environment so many ideas are tossed up on the wall, that you get surprisingly powerful ideas coming out of them. Blogger and Twitter were both "side projects" that many people considered to be trivial. While I'm sure some people still consider them trivial, to argue that these weren't "world-changing" when you look at the communication they enabled, and how they've been used around the world, would be an impressive level of denial. People derided the original Apple computer as being trivial. But it changed the world in many ways. People mocked Google as being a trivial search engine in a crowded market. But it changed the world and the way we interact with information today. Many world-changing ideas don't start out that way. Most companies don't end up in the business they intend to start out in. Someone who's lived through startup life knows this. It's easy to mock from the outside, and not realize this is how innovation works
. A trivial idea may be trivial forever... but it can also spark the next world-changing idea.
It's the cauldron of ideas and innovation, good and bad, that helps bring to life those world-changing concepts when they come about. Pretending that you can build an ecosystem that only
produces world-changing companies is a fallacy.
That's not to say there aren't problems with Silicon Valley. And there certainly are overly eager folks who jump into the fray all the time without realizing how the world really works. But to brush off Silicon Valley because there are some trivial startups out there is to miss the point in a big, bad way.