I arrived in Silicon Valley in mid-1997, in the middle of the dot-com IPO boom. Amazon.com started trading on the public markets in May of that year, well before they would turn a profit, and saw a 30% jump in their stock price that day, even after pricing it 28% above the high end of the price range.
My first company was pure Internet bubble speculation. They’d been around for years already, taken several rounds of venture capital and had wildly changed their strategy from hand-held communications software for Apple’s Newton to more general client/server software trumpeting the then-favorable “push” buzzword. As it happened, my girlfriend at the time worked for Pointcast, one of my company’s favorite targets of ridicule in the press. Of course, neither company ended up doing anything in the long run.
I stayed in the Valley for nine years. I think my experience there is probably fairly typical. One employer blew up spectacularly. A few ran out of money. A couple were acquired. None were news-worthy successes. I do know one guy who did really well and several others who did just OK.
I’m fairly confident that, had I stayed, eventually the stars would align and I’d ride one of the exit strategy trains to (modest) stock riches. Maybe I wouldn’t retire, but it’d buy a nice house and I could stop thinking about if sending my kids to the public schools was the best thing to do. Now, though, my priorities have changed. I don’t want to keep playing the start-up engineer game. I have ideas of my own and things I want to try, but lack the money connections to fund them. With a family to support, mac & cheese and ramen isn’t a realistic option.
So we left Silicon Valley and came back to Ohio. The cost of living here is far lower, we have extended family nearby (so my kids will know their grandparents) and I’ve managed thus far to retain some consulting work back in the Valley.
That can’t last forever, though, which brings me, finally, to the point of this blog. I’m going to strike out on my own and work on some product ideas, supplementing our income with consulting. I’ll admit it: this blog is probably more marketing than anything else. It can’t hurt to get my name out, let people get a feel for who I am and what I can do. If even one client finds me from this, it will have served its purpose. If new or potential clients read this, I hope it allows them to be more comfortable with an unknown engineer, until I’ve had the opportunity to prove myself through my work.
My plan is to keep topics here fairly technical. Some of them will likely revolve around my projects, others may comment upon experiences and lessons learned with clients. If I have something worthwhile to add to something I read elsewhere, that’s fair game, too.
I am eager to see where this leads.