I just spent a couple of days in San Francisco, the land of the nine-digit idea.
Every town has its prevailing topic of conversation. In Los Angeles, it’s Julia and Tom and Ari and who’s in turnaround and who just dumped their agency to go with another agency another guy just dumped. In New York, it’s hedges and wedges and bonuses and who just got that six-acre estate in Connecticut, or lost it, who’s acquiring what and which and who.
In Miami, it’s corned beef or cocaine, depending on your demographic. And in San Francisco, it’s all about the guy who just turned 30 and received $300,000,000 for his little company that didn’t do anything all that different from any other company except that it made Google (GOOG) or Facebook nervous, so they had to buy it to sleep at night.
It’s never eight digits. Nobody ever sold their start-up, which provides hosting for micro-packages that skim information for dweezles, for $10,000,000, or even $99,000,000. It’s always more than $100,000,000. Nobody works for chump change. Several older guys, who are now in their, like, mid-30s, have turned around two or three start-ups, monetizing each one for nine digits, and are now once again hard at work in a strip mall above a Starbucks (SBUX), honking away with a couple of engineers at a social network that will hopfrog over Facebook and integrate user experiences into a interface that will fuse their brains to the digital ecosphere.
I don’t mind telling you it all made me kind of jealous. I’ve been working at a pretty big job for quite some time, and according to my calculations I would have to work for another 1,816 years to approach a nine-digit payday, and after taxes it would certainly come out to only eight digits, or if Mr. Obama has his way, only seven.
Worse, the lifestyle out in the San Jose-Mountain View-Redwood City-San Francisco-East Bay axis is almost insultingly humane. People wander in at 10. Everybody dresses like their mommies just put their outfits together for their first day of Kindergarten. Healthy food and beverages are supplied in big, shiny refrigerators. Nobody seems to be yelling. At dinner, I heard a story about a boss that did yell and throw chairs around, but he’s out of the business now, having monetized his start-up for, that’s right, nine digits. He’s old now. Over 40, think.
I figure my only chance to hit this vein of California gold, is to execute a three part strategy:
1. Spend more time in San Francisco, getting to know people there and taking a lot of meetings;
2. Invent a bunch of applets for the Apple IMachines — IPods, IPads, IPhones, or conversely, some kind of user experience that in some way piggybacks on Facebook, annoying Mark Zuckerberg to the point where he feels he has to pay me to go away, acquiring my little start-up and subsuming it into his huge corporate body the way an antibody eats a microbe;
3. Get to know as many venture capitalists as I can, and learn the way they talk. I learned several new terms hanging around with them yesterday, but I’m not going to share them with you, because knowledge it power and you could certainly be thinking about this kind of stuff right now instead of wasting your time worrying about sales, customers and daily operations.
The business of America is not business. It’s monetizing vaporous start-ups that involve mystical social networking. As of right now, I’m getting with the program. Time is money.