BusinessWeek’s Steve Hamm declares the death of Silicon Valley, which he says has become a land of get-rich-quick dreamers with the attention span of gnats. One of Steve’s first stops: A member of a dying breed known as Andy Grove.
Dressed in a grey sweater with a BlackBerry (RIMM) clipped to his belt, Grove greets me at the door of his small office above a travel agency in Los Altos. He launches directly into a diatribe against what he sees as the shortsightedness and shortage of ambition on the part of today’s Valley-ites. He regrets that the U.S. ceded the market for computer batteries to Japan in the 1970s. Now it’s way behind in the race to invent improved batteries for electric vehicles—something he thinks Silicon Valley companies should be working harder on.
What really infuriates him is the concept of the “exit strategy.” That’s when leaders of startup companies make plans to sell out to the highest bidder rather than trying to build important companies over a long period. “Intel never had an exit strategy,” he tells me. “These days, people cobble something together. No capital. No technology. They measure eyeballs and sell advertising. Then they get rid of it. You can’t build an empire out of this kind of concoction. You don’t even try.“
Grove doesn’t name names. But his criticisms raise the question: Can any of today’s startups measure up to the giants of the Valley? Can any become the next Intel, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle (ORCL), Apple, or Google? It’s hard for some to imagine. “These Web 2.0 companies are surfing on the old wave. They’re not creating the next one,” says analyst Navi Radjou of Forrester Research (FORR), which studies the tech market.