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The Audacity of Hope – Silicon Valley Style

Published: August 2, 2008

Author: David Rodnitzky

Back in 1999, you couldn’t turn your head without running into a confident (sometimes cocky) Internet entrepreneur with an incredible idea to change the world. In those days, it seems that the nom-de-jour for Internet companies was anything that started with an ‘e’: eTour, eHarmony, eBay, eBags, ePinions, eHow, eVite, eGroups, eBates, eTC, eTC.
Some of these companies did quite well. Most did not. Indeed, I could only seem to remember the names of the ones that were moderately successful; I’m sure that someone at that time got money for eDate, eStore, eMoney, and eNews, only to see their dream of riches get sucked into the blackhole of the eBubble in 2001.
The 2001 bubble was pretty drastic. Some estimate that more than 50,000 people left the Bay Area in just a few years and over 180,000 jobs were lost. Unable to find a job and unable to pay rent, a mass exodus occurred. My favorite metric from this period was the “U Haul statistic.” As noted by The San Francisco Chronicle in 2002:

During the Memorial Day to Labor Day peak moving season this year, 4.1 percent
more U-Haul vehicles and trailers left the Silicon Valley region than arrived,
the company calculates. That compares with 1.8 percent more households taking
moving equipment out of the region than during the same period in 2001.

As we all know, the dark days of 2002 have now mostly faded from our collective memory. Of course, those of us who made it through that period are perhaps a little more gun shy than we were when we first came out here, but the rise of Google and Web 2.0 has given a lot of people a lot of confidence about Silicon Valley’s future success.
For the most part, I agree with the vote of confidence. But I also see history repeating itself. This was most evident to me last week when I perused photos from the TechCrunch meet-up in Menlo Park. It’s hard not to look at these photos of hip nerd girls and just plain nerds and not see both youthful excitement and eventual disappointment for most.

Of course, today, the eHows and eBates of the world have been replaced by URLs missing vowels, like Flickr, Revvr, AntiDsEstblismntr, and the like. But there’s no doubt that the outcome of the Web 2.0 entrepreneur generation will be largely the same as the 1999-2001 wave: most will fail, many will leave SF forever, and a few will make out like bandits and drive housing prices up in Los Altos Hills and Woodside.
But that’s the beauty of Silicon Valley. Every few years we get knocked down, venture capitalists store their money away in secret vaults on Sand Hill Row, and disgruntled youth leave the area and apply to grad school. But it’s only temporary. In a few years, all is forgiven as the new wave of entrepreneurs come into town with a confident swagger and the next game-changing pre-IPO idea.
Since we’ve already run out of e and i domain names, and apparently the non-vowel names are also taken, my prediction is that the next wave will have to combine letters and numbers; things like CUL8R.com and IB4U.com. Basically virtual license plates. Now’s the time to start cyber-squatting on these URLs, my friends, because the next wave of entrepreneurs will definitely want to spend some VC money on a catchy domain.

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