National Geographic : 2001 Dec
valued at 20 times Goodyear?" Curtis Heinz, a San Francisco stock trader, told a friend whose dot-cor had skyrocketed. "So who needs tires?" his friend replied. Reports of the demise of Silicon Valley were premature. The patient wasn't moribund, merely temporarily indisposed. "Every time Silicon Valley goes through a cycle, people say it's doomed," said AnnaLee Saxenian, a Berkeley professor of regional planning. "In 1980 I myself argued that hous ing and labor were too expensive, roads too crowded, that growth would shift elsewhere. Later they said it again, with the rise of techno logical Japan. But there are real companies here. It would be hard to argue that the Inter net won't be an arena for business. It's a ques tion of who survives. Silicon Valley is not the traditional model. There are social intangibles. It's not just dollars and cents." In Silicon Valley the bust was not failure; it was part of the learning curve. "It's okay to fail nobly," explained Tom Melcher, who is in the middle of a start-up. "It's one of the bed rock things that make this place different. In the East, if you fail, you're a pariah. Not here." Melcher's company, called There, involves the creation of an elaborate, sophisticated cyberspace playground, and it is, he knows, very high risk. Lee Hwang left a well-paying job in Atlanta because she wanted a change. She found it at There. Her brother-in-law is the chief technol ogy officer for the company, and she had been hired to keep Cokes in the refrigerator and answer the phone. "I sold off everything I had and came here to work a 12-hour day," she said, as we sat in the kitchen of the warehouse build ing that houses There in Menlo Park. "I have friends in Atlanta who think I'm crazy. Even if it tanks, it's an adventure. The coolness factor is high. I don't want to reach the end of my life and have any regrets." Hwang, at least, could live with her sister and brother-in-law. At the building where There is taking shape, a handful of employees were living in their offices and sleeping on futons. "It's weird rolling out of bed and going to work," confessed Matt Murakami, a 24-year old artist. (Continued on page 74) software firm, Bonde hopes to raise four million dollars from investors. An eye for winners distin guishes managing partners Kevin Fong and Yogen Dalal (left to right, seen through glasses). Their venture capital firm, Mayfield, has helped launch such giants as Compaq and 3Com.