Book Review: Decoding Silicon Valley

Many entrepreneurs from all over the world are fascinated with Silicon Valley. “Decoding Silicon Valley” by Jonathan Baer and Michelle Messina is a book (in many ways more of a guidebook) that covers its infrastructure, culture, and mindset. It is useful for both American and non-American readers.

Especially useful for overseas entrepreneurs, the authors clarify the communication style and behaviors that the local community expects and are effective. The book also sets reasonable expectations for what visitors to Silicon Valley can achieve, and it discusses the conditions for a successful business move to Silicon Valley.

“For companies outside the region, leveraging Silicon Valley almost always requires some level of business success in your local region first. Without local traction, you will find it difficult, perhaps impossible, to effectively leverage Silicon Valley for capital, personnel, or expertise. This is almost always the case even if the company does have global potential.”

Decoding Silicon Valley, Jonathan C. Baer and Michelle E. Messina, 2016, Decode Publishers

Sometimes overseas entrepreneurs have an unrealistic view of the access to capital, human resources, and customers available to them in the United States. While being fundamentally positive and optimistic, this book helps entrepreneurs to think realistically. It also encourages entrepreneurs to use some of Silicon Valley’s best practices for building successful startup, regardless of where the business is based.

My view is that moving to Silicon Valley is often a bad idea. However, I would encourage any entrepreneur, anywhere, to understand the culture.

Decoding Silicon Valley is not a superficial book. It is a comprehensive guide that touches on entrepreneurship, as well as access to capital and how investors assess pitches, providing insights that can be applied anywhere.

A few years ago, I taught a startup Bootcamp in Daegu with Jonathan Baer. He is a great educator and subject matter expert.

Who should read this book

For product marketers outside of the United States, your CEO and leadership team are probably familiar with at least some aspects of Silicon Valley culture. Reading this book may provide insight into their thinking. For entrepreneurs everywhere, I recommend this book as a guided tour of the valley mindset.

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