Paul: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy Podcast. I am your host, it's Paul Kemp. This is the show where we go around the world and we introduce you to founders, authors entrepreneurs, investors because it helps you in your journey. So if you are interested in this mobile space of disruption, this is the podcast for you. I have two amazing co-authors that I'm going to introduce you to. We know these guys are relevant, because they have written a book called Valley Speak: Deciphering the Jargon of Silicon Valley. It's incredibly useful, and let me introduce Rochelle Kopp and Steve Ganz, who are the co-authors and we're going to be talking about their book. Guys, welcome to The App Guy Podcast!
Steve: Hi, Paul.
Paul: Hi. So first of all, what inspired you to write the book? Maybe we can start with you, Rochelle.
Rochelle: Certainly. Well, interestingly it started out as a book that we wrote in Japanese. I had written a book in general about American business buzzwords and someone in the Japanese publishing industry said "Well, you should really do one related to Silicon Valley for all those Japanese people who are coming to the U.S." Then when we were working on it - I invited Steve to help me with it - we discovered that there wasn't anything in English about all the jargon used in Silicon Valley, and we thought "Well, we're researching it and we're finding great stuff. Let's share it with everyone in English, too."
Paul: I love that. How did you guys connect and do it together, as co-authors?
Steve: Well Paul, we're married so I was the natural person for Rochelle to turn to, looking for more support in some of the technical areas. I also have worked as part of several startups, I know about some of the financial aspects as well, so we were able to pool our expertise and bring it together.
Rochelle: So besides being very complementary as a couple, we're also very complimentary as co-authors.
Paul: Yes, I guess with the two different names, you see, that threw me. My wife is the same in fact, she has a different surname to me in her work profession, so it's quite common. Okay, this is great, you're a married couple and you've found that there's an issue, you've written a book in Japanese about Silicon Valley jargon. What's that done to your own careers, having a book out there?
Rochelle: Well, the Japanese book has been really great for more exposure in the Japanese market, and I've done books in Japanese already, so I'm kind of known as an author there about issues of language and culture, but having the Silicon Valley specific one really helps put us on the map for our expertise on that, and we work with a lot of Japanese companies that are here in Silicon Valley.
Paul: Yes, it's fascinating because we've had recently an episode where we were talking about a book writing service, and anyone can go back and listen to that, and we know now the importance for our own careers, for our own credibility, it's almost important to have a book. Would you say, Steve, that for anyone listening if they can get a book on a subject that they're passionate about, that it does actually mean a lot?
Steve: Yes absolutely, and this is actually one of the topics that we discuss in our book, because it really is part of the Silicon Valley way of going about things, the thought leadership. So whatever expertise you might have, it's always a good thing to present that, to use that to establish yourself and then whatever else you can do to build an offer around that, it's really just a very natural way of connecting with people and furthering whatever you're trying to accomplish.
Paul: So here is the challenge that many people listening to this are attracted to the Silicon Valley lifestyle; there's a lot of press about the money that's being made and I would ask you both, given that you have been doing your own startups and you've got this book, is it worth it being a startup founder, living in Silicon Valley? Would you recommend that to anyone listening?
Steve: Well, it is not for everybody, that's for sure, but on the other hand I think most people really do have things that they've kind of thought about, "Oh, wouldn't it be great if things were this way, or if I could accomplish something, whatever it happens to be?" and there's really nothing like a situation that enables you to follow those impulses and live them out. So it's actually a huge amount of work to do your own startup, it's a huge amount of work to participate in an existing startup, but there's really nothing like the leverage it gives you in terms of having an impact with the company and being able to direct the development of your product.
Rochelle: The thing about Silicon Valley is that it's such an incredible density of people who are doing startups, people who have experience supporting, advising and funding startups, all within a very concentrated space, so it has a lot of efficiencies. And a lot of VCs, when they are investing in promising startups, one of the conditions is that they move the startup to Silicon Valley to be part of the ecosystem. There's a lot of benefits, but with that being said, on the other hand you could say that Silicon Valley is also becoming kind of a state of mind, and there's so many great startup hubs that are popping up really all over the world where people are taking a lot of the ideas and practices and applying them in different places, so I don't think you necessarily have to be here anymore. I guess you could say it's a topic that a lot of people debate.
Paul: Yes, well that's debated because a lot of developers listening to this are going for jobs for example at Slack, and they're requiring people to be at the offices; yet we also have these other digital nomads, in a way - and I'm included in this, I actually work from a hub in Bali - so what are the other hubs do you think in your mind, where they are trying to emulate the success in Silicon Valley.
Steve: Well, within the US you have lots of startup communities really in pretty much any major city, but certainly Boston, Chicago and New York. Around universities you'll tend to have startup communities kind of following the way things developed in Silicon Valley around Stanford University. So I believe Austin has a strong startup community as well, and then going internationally, likewise, certainly London is very strong.
Paul: I was going to ask Rochelle about Japan as well. Is that an interesting space at the moment for startups in tech?
Rochelle: Yes, I was just going to mention that, that there are a lot of startups in Japan. In fact, there are a lot more there than there used to be, so there's a nice blossoming that's going on there, and particularly for startups in the app world. Because Japan is so advanced in the penetration of smartphones and how integrated they are into people’s lives, it's a really great place for people who are doing apps. Also Korea and Singapore are getting a lot of attention from people who are making things. Also what comes to mind to me is Chile, they've got a great program where they actually subsidize entrepreneurs to come there, and another one that comes to mind, I've done some work with the U.S. Department of State's TechWomen program, and I've met some really great entrepreneurs from Africa, and particularly standing out is Nairobi - a really interesting hub of people, including some app developers.
Paul: Yes, I've heard that they've invested quite a lot in their internet speed and fiber optics, and that has completely changed the way they think about their industries. That's really inspiring, I'm sure everyone listening can get quite inspired that it's not just Silicon Valley, but let's move our attention back to Silicon Valley. In writing the book, what would you say were the biggest challenges in terms of getting what you needed for the book? Rochelle, let's start with you on this one.
Rochelle: Boy, I think just the vast number of concepts and new technologies and financial techniques that are in use here. We actually are keeping a list of all the key concepts we mention in the book and it's up to 610. We have it up on a website called Wordnik. It's a lot to get your arms around.
Steve: Yes, I would say that a big part of the challenge is actually keeping in a form in which so much material is digestible. We have a reasonably constraining format of two pages per chapter, which covers a particular topic area, and the jargon that's fundamental to that area. It's not necessarily a perfect fit all the time to try to get whatever the size of that space is into those two pages, but it is really a great exercise and great discipline to have to think in terms of how concisely we can present the material to cover a lot of space in a short number of words, but make it readable and entertaining and actually get across not just the terminology, but what the terminology means to people, what they're passionate about, what they argue about, different positions people take on the issues, and really convey that concisely.
Paul: So there's two more things we need to do before we say goodbye, guys. One is that I would love to know, as you were researching the book, tell us any stories that may come to mind about fascinating people you met in the process. There's so many greats, but maybe if you could pick someone who comes to mind that really helped with the material.
Rochelle: Well, one person who was really helpful and gave us a lot of great comments was a Guy Kawasaki.
Paul: Right, did you actually sit down and spend some time with Guy?
Rochelle: No, unfortunately we didn't, but we'd love to do that, of course. He was really generous with looking at the manuscript, giving us suggestions, it was wonderful.
Steve: Another person I will mention is investor Carol Sands, who I had met through the Startup Leadership Program which I have been participating in with my current startup, Teamifier, and she was very helpful in reviewing some of the material and giving her thoughts on how it could be improved, and contributed a quote for the book as well.
Paul: Well, if you have a direct line to Guy Kawasaki maybe you can invite him onto this show, we have yet to get him. Okay, well finally, there is a theme and a trend developing on this show, because I do a lot of these and what is coming out is the whole area of artificial intelligence and bots, and I wondered if you had any views on how that's developing - is it a fad or do you feel like there's some longevity in the development of artificial intelligence and bots? Do you have a view on that?
Steve: Yes, well artificial intelligence is hardly a fad; it's fundamentally been what computer science has been developing towards over decades, and we are really making much more progress now. I think there have been various periods over time where that's been seen as hype, where maybe too grandiose promises have been made, and I would say that we are continuing in that mode of making grandiose promises, but in fact the promises becoming more grandiose may be a sign that we're actually making much more progress and doing much more amazing things with artificial intelligence. As far as bots, that is just one way of interfacing artificial intelligence with people; I think it's a natural one, but it most certainly won't be the only one.
Paul: You know why, because this show has been going now for several years, and it's called The App Guy and suddenly, to my shock and horror I've listened to someone saying that that could be now the death of apps. Because we've had apps replacing the internet in a way - the original computers, the browsers - and now bots could be replacing apps, because Facebook are talking about having a bot store, and you do everything within the one platform, rather than going off to different apps, hence my kind of worry about the name of this show.
Steve: I wouldn't worry so much. Names may well change, but the same sorts of technological solutions keep reinventing themselves. It's the sense in which apps are really just a resurgence of the downloaded software model, which we've taken a brief break from with some of the cloud-based technologies.
Paul: Just to flesh that out a tiny bit more, Steve... So you think what we're going through with apps is a resurgence of what we've been through in a past period with downloading software?
Steve: Yes, there are various ways of dividing control in a system between the user's technology and the server's technology, and there's a pendulum that goes back and forth and will continue to do so.
Paul: I love that, that's just so much clarity there. Well, Rochelle and Steve, it's been a genuine pleasure and I would recommend that people do go and find your book and buy it and read it. I will have links of my website to you. For everyone who is listening, you can go to theappguy.co, search for episode 458 with Rochelle Kopp and Steve Ganz, and you'll see links to them and the book. But in the meantime, how can people connect with you? What's the best way of reaching out?
Rochelle: Okay, well we've got a site, it's siliconvalleyspeak.com, and there's a contact form on there. That's probably the quickest way.
Paul: Wonderful, and will it be yourself that we're engaging with, or will it be a bot in the background?
Steve: Well, you won't know the difference.
Paul: Exactly. We'll be doing the Turing test on you, I think.
Steve: By the way, we do have some quizzes on the website that people can interact with and get an initial chance to play around with some of Silicon Valley's jargon.
Paul: I love that, that's great. Well, thank you so much for bringing such a wildly useful book to market and sharing your knowledge with us on this show.