Howard Greenfield at the Plug and play tech center: even in these times of crisis "it's never been so easy for a start-up to get started on a very low budget"

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On June 2nd, 2010 we had the opportunity to meet with Howard Greenfield, president of GO associates, a global consulting firm that helps companies bring technology to the market place. Howard Greenfield is also EIR (i.e. Executive In Residence) at the plug and play Tech center, a unique facility in Sunnyvale California, at the heart of Silicon Valley, which helps start-ups and big companies get together in order to grow their business. Howard also worked in Paris for company which developed photo portals in the late 1990s. He also worked with Sun, Informix, Apple and did some consulting work for British Telecom. He is also a columnist and writes pieces for NAB and he is the co-author of a book about IPTV and Internet video which can be found here at Amazon. Currently, Howard is working on an article entitled "the secret life of start-ups" which will describe what goes on in the world of start-ups in the Silicon Valley. We took this opportunity with our fellow journalists members of the French IT press tour in the Silicon Valley to ask Howard Greenfield a few questions about his feelings on entrepreneurship, the business outlook and how things are going on on a daily basis in the fast lane of high tech Californian business.

 

Are venture capitalist arrogant?

 

"Every day, there is a series of 5 to 6 sessions of start-ups in front of venture capitalists" Howard says, "some of these VCs are very supportive. Some are very arrogant, dismissive, discouraging". "The reason why VCs are sometimes getting arrogant" Howard adds is that "the financial picture is more squeezed and there is an erosion of the technology financial infrastructure at the moment in the Silicon Valley. There are also arrogant start-ups by the way, which are not respectful of venture capitalists either" Mr. Greenfield points out.

 

When asked to cite one of the craziest example is that he has witnessed, Howard mentions one particular start-up, which was trying to recreate an entire 3-D desktop browser interface in which every graphic would be 3-D so as to supersede the incumbents which are Microsoft, Google and Apple etc. "That was crazy but exciting (I mean ahead of its time). The response was: 'are you guys real?'". But in a way, Howard says, "if your innovative project is embraced upfront it means that you're doing something wrong! Rejection proves that the technology is disruptive, it's the foundation for innovation. Because when innovation is significant it is disruptive and it upsets people in the way that they usually do things.

 

Do VCs favour mature projects?

"It's a case-by-case answer" Howard responds. "VCs prefer what is going to succeed financially. Preferences are secondary versus opportunities. There is no flexibility".

 

What is the current situation? Is it easy going at the moment?

 

"It is not the heyday like in the 1990s. But there are events that took place a few moments ago showing that there is something happening now. But the paradox is that it's never been so easy for a start-up to get started on a very low budget. It's a gold rush story in California. People got crazy during the Gold Rush. It's similar so that what is happening here at the moment. Here you are in touch with people were creating waves around the world".

 

What are the top topics in the Silicon Valley at the moment:

"The top topics in the Silicon Valley at the moment are cloud computing, then social networking and social media, then digital media and last but not least mobile" Greenfield declares. "There is a big tsunami with the potential of mobile computing. Jim Creamer, a very popular TV presenter here, very tech savvy who managed a multi-million innovation fund, described the tsunami of mobile computing and that will surpass anything we've seen before".

 

in the Silicon Valley, are there more successes or tragedies?

"There are more tragedies because everyone can do it, even grandmothers can do it!"

 

Is Europe behind in terms of innovation?

"Ingenuity is universal but the constraints are about the culture. I work a lot with Europe, my experience is that it is more enjoyable over there but you don't have that manic way of working we have in the United States. in France for instance, you have 'joie de vivre' and my feeling is that there is a different attitude and above all, the French culture in Paris is different from the perfect storm of the Silicon Valley. Dealmaking is speediest here".

Yann Gourvennec

I specialize in information systems, HighTech marketing and Web marketing. I am author and contributor to numerous books and the CEO of Visionary Marketing. As such, I contribute regularly on this blog for Orange Business Services account on cloud computing and cloud storage topics.