Gaythri Raman gives us a glimpse of life among modest geniuses of Silicon Valley.
I am told that it all started when Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard chose a detached garage back in the 1930s – I’mguessing out of necessity. I imagine those to be humble circumstances, two people with a vision and a determination to make it a reality. Their fledgling electronics business needed to get off the ground and it seems like a pragmatic approach, setting up shop in a garage.
Today, the Silicon Valley tells the tale of giants. In the 1970s, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak famously started Apple in equally humble beginnings, in a garage in Los Altos, possibly inspired by those who dared to dream before them. Larry Page then launched Google in the late 1990s in yet another garage. The garages have become legends – those that inspire people to dream of changing the world. This is the mindset innate in people who live in this world – where technology wizards snub the conventional, gaze into their ultra-modern crystal ball and know which wave of the future they want to surf.
I spent a weekend in the Silicon Valley this summer. My friend Matt and his family, who live in the thick of this technology-driven world, spent time showing me their town, their home. I experienced a little bit of that wizardry, just enough to admire the way this world has shaped the lives of millions.
Only in the Silicon Valley would you be driving around residential neighbourhoods and have your host point out Steve Job’s garage to you. Only in this world would you have the latest on-dits of Microsoft, Google, Apple and Facebook told to you with nonchalance, like this was nothing out of the ordinary. This is where you would see Evernote and Dropbox’s headquarters as you drive on the highway.
I visited the famous address – 1 Infinite Loop, the Apple headquarters, and I roamed the Google Complex with the delight of a child in a candy store. I marveled at the wealth and luxury with which the people here live and puzzled at how grounded these same folks are, living in this world.
I spent quality time engaging in meaningful conversations with my host and his family. I told tales of life in Asia and the idiosyncrasies of our people so that they would have a taste of my world, and Matt’s children, two of the most well behaved teenagers I have met, listened intently, curious, wanting to learn.
I learnt that innovation can be cultivated, circumstances can be created and people can be driven to ideate. I learnt that thinking out of the box results from talking to people outside your world and discovering an alternate world. I learnt that the vision comes first and pursuing it relentlessly brings success. I learnt that none of the giants pursued wealth and that is the formula to success. I learnt that changing the world can be fun.