Walled Gardens and Flat Orgs

Venture Capitalists have a phrase called “over the transom.” This describes a deal that is not only unsolicited, but more importantly, a deal with no introduction. That is, the entrepreneur might have just cold-emailed a business plan to an investor him/herself, or even worse just uploaded a Microsoft PowerPoint file to the website. That the entrepreneur didn’t have enough wit, guts, and/or perseverance (or even, at the most basic level, to know these standard procedures) to get his/her business plan in front of some gatekeeper, i.e. a colleague or pal of the prospective investor who could vouch for the merits of the entrepreneur and the concept, will inevitably cast aspersions on the investor’s perception of this entrepreneur’s ability, well, to be a successful entrepreneur. Getting anything started, like a business, requires inordinate persistence; having the currency of public praise from peers, for example, or via concrete indicators like “Dealbob Rainmaker called and said this kid can chisel” is a helpful indicator the investor won’t be wasting his/her time. Business is about selling, which is fundamentally a social pursuit.

In Silicon Valley a nobody can get coffee with a somebody, given they are persistent. The walls are permeable. One reason the culture of Silicon Valley enables this is fear of Moore’s Law. Since technology, whether it is getting smaller, faster, or cheaper is doubling every eighteen months or so, technologists like those in Silicon Valley know the best time to develop a competing product is tomorrow--not the metaphorical tomorrow, as in when we get to it, nooooo, tomorrow as in 24 hours from now. Sundeep the Staffer could be working nights on not only the next billion dollar killer app, but the platform that displaces yours. Big ideas can come from anywhere, nothing is new on that count; yet the speed and low cost at which you can realize that very idea defines the time we live in. This fear drives organizations to be flatter. And flat organizations are euphemisms for empowered individuals. And a culture that empowers individuals ensures that nobodies have a chance. That doesn’t mean a spunky email will get you a teleconference with a Fortune 500 CEO, but it does mean that with guts and an idea you can work your way in the door and get your story told. It's not the smartest guy or the best looking guy but the persistent guy who wins.