My First Blog Post: Who I am & 5 Signs of the Top of the Bubble in Silicon Valley

Why should you read my stuff?

Well, i think i have a slightly different take on tech with a career spanning startups, operating exec at big tech co and early stage investor.

I’ve seen a lot over the last 21 years and hope to share some observations which i believe could actually be interesting for both insiders and outsiders to Silicon Valley. Plus, I tend to be pretty opinionated, bluntly direct and hope to occasionally share something insightful (stress on occasionally).

I’ve been in San Francisco for over 21 years, was an early employee running online marketing at online ecommerce retailer Alibris in 1999 which raised over $64M during its life (crazy times). I was lucky to join Yahoo! during the turnaround in starting in 2001 and rose thru the ranks as an executive in the international operations for 10.5 years traveling all around the world. Spent 2 years as angel investor, board and advisory board member on several startups & mentor at two dozen startup accelerators across the globe.

Most recently was a Partner at 500 Startups, helped start the SF office and ran the core accelerator program and invested in over 400 pre-seed and seed startups during my 6 years there. Notable investments & startups i have invested and worked with include Eaze, Indio, Embroker, Manychat, RapidAPI, Aircall, Pipefy, Shippo, Vela among many others.

I left 500 Startups at the end of 2019 to reset & reflect, do the Tech Conference speaking circuit scene in 2020 and possibly do some angel investing. Covid-19 kind of put a kibosh on all of that.

So now keeping busy doing some executive coaching for a few late stage startups, volunteer mentoring at some international startup accelerators, being a Fellow at Creative Destruction Labs Montreal, speaking at many virtual conferences and webinars, and a proud member of the Silicon Valley Squares Zoom show: https://www.siliconvalleysquares.com

Basically just an observer of the tech scene as an Inside-Outsider while “Sheltered in Place” for the foreseeable future.

TLDR; Highly opinionated views from 21 year career in startups, Big tech & Venture Capital.

5 Signs of the Top of Bubble & Coming Apocalypse in Silicon Valley (USEFUL for the NEXT ONE):

Having lived in San Francisco since 1999 i had the fortune or misfortune of being part of 2 prior Gold Rush Eras in tech.

  1. Harvard MBAs show up and we get flood of ex-I-Bankers and Management Consultants wanting to be VCs or Startup Founders as it seems to be “SURE Way” to become “Rich”
  2. Big Non-Tech Corporates start to show up in Silicon Valley. We see them set up VC Funds or Accelerators. Or my favorite, when the C-level execs come for their one week or two week “Tech Tourism” or what we call “Silicon Valley Startup Petting Zoo”
  3. Sports & Hollywood Stars start to angel invest or start startups (or do both, think Jay Z and Tidal). For record Ashton Kucher and Joe Montana are notable exceptions to this.
  4. Landlords on retail and commercial side get super greedy & ask for equity and try to rip you off more than normal
  5. Flood of Unsophisticated aka “Dumb Money” coming from a bunch of un-named regions. Hint is that it’s usually from energy & resource rich countries not known for tech & just chasing the sexiness and supposed guaranteed riches of the tech industry. (I also note that this is a gross generalization because i have worked with some amazing LPs and investors from these regions.)

A BIG Check Mark on all 5 by Q3 of 2019.

And here we are. Bubble has burst due to Covid-19 and according to Bay Area Layoff Tracker we have over 136,000 layoffs.

https://projects.sfchronicle.com/2020/layoff-tracker/

An old saying comes to mind from 2001 Dotcom bubble. B2C now means “Back to Consulting” and B2B now means “Back to Banking.”

This is gonna suck and i don’t enjoy seeing this. But this rebuilding is when we will see alot of amazing new world changing startups and teams come to the fore. We just need to survive the nuclear winter of 2020 (and probably 2021).

Thanks to my friends Sean Li & Asher Siddiqi for providing feedback on this.

Written by

Ever curious: Tsundoku, Reader, Aspiring Shokunin, World traveller, Investor & Tech/Media exec interested in almost everything! www.marvinliao.com

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