Chinese New Year is a major celebration in the Bay Area. For at least a week in the city, the sound of fireworks is a day and night constant, and a casual walk downtown will almost certainly be complicated by hit and run Lion Dances.
This year is the year of the Snake and it can’t come to soon. The year of the Snake promises prosperity. Snakes are crafty creatures that like to be hidden and protected. They're successful creatures but if they have a major fault it's that they can be greedy and they can be stingy. So, beware. This is a good year to make money, but don't go overboard and neglect important relationships because you're too busy raking it in.
I thought it was kind of cool to discover that the year of the snake favors research and analysis. That goes back to the nature of snakes to lie hidden and to calculate before they make their move. I was thinking of all this looking over the stories we’ve put together for TechWatch. I’m calling it the Innovation Issue because there are stories in it about innovative companies and also about the search for innovation.
The search for innovation is an obsession in the Bay Area where there are so many people who seem to have become instant millionaires. The rest of us would like a little of that … as if. A closer look always reveals instant millionaires have at least a decade of hard work behind their success. It's doubtful that they set out to find the next big thing. It's more likely they simply recognized a need and had the energy and imagination to build a solution oh and lookie there, they just happened to become fabulously wealthy in the process. There are just as many more people who have tried to create something and their first efforts have failed and maybe their second and third efforts as well. What’s really too bad is that plenty of those ideas were great and maybe should have been more successful.
Still, we can't help but believe there is a magic formula that will make us rich. If only we can just find the right levers to pull. As a matter of fact, conferences that showcase companies and people who have struck it rich seem to be a pretty reliable source of income. The Ted phenomenon continues to grow, SXSW is completely out of control, and Davos likewise draws people in no matter how much it costs. Apparently people like to hang out with rich people just in case it's contagious.
Out of curiosity, I looked up Forbes list of most innovative companies. The number one most innovative company according to Forbes is Salesforce. What's so innovative about putting a database online? Well actually, a lot as it turns out. When you give everyone the ability to manage, update, and share data, people become more efficient and productive … at least some people. And, this is the sort of thing, that drives the innovation seekers crazy. It's such a simple idea. Likewise, Google's universal search engine is a simple idea. And, Amazon's great big store in the sky is a simple idea. Facebook anyone?
In all cases, it's not the idea, it's how the idea is put together. The technology makes it seem frictionless, the price is right, and in the case of these examples they all exploit community. That right there might be a formula, but it should also be noted that all of these companies are over 10 years old and that there is a huge horrible amount of work and investment behind them. I know, I hate that too. If you’re not working really hard building something, you might have to hope to be related to someone who is, and you might want to remind them not to be snaky with all that wealth.
So by the way, the Snake's lucky colors are red and yellow and their lucky numbers are 2, 8, and 9. So for back up, just in case all my hard work doesn’t end up making me prosperous by the end of the year, I think I’ll buy a lottery ticket.