I have now been in California since July 3, first in San Diego and then in the Bay Area. I�ve met with one client who used to be in San Francisco, but now offices in Santa Rosa, having shrunk his company to two people and an admin. I�ve seen another client whose offices are being remodeled around him � for the next tenant who can pay the rent. The landlord said our client can stay until the next tenant moves in.
I�ve met with a start-up company– funded by a large computer parts manufacturer–that is looking for a CEO to come in and find it a strategic marketing partner. They are hoping the CEO will work for �sweat equity.� I�ve been to a gorgeous, empty gym in a gorgeous, empty Redwood City industrial park that both Excite and Broadvision were supposed to move into. And that Broadvision is still paying the lease for. Excite�s former headquarters buildings, all glass, are empty. You can literally see through them.
All along the 101, the Yellow Brick Road of Silicon Valley, are signs offering space for lease. Journalists are writing about the doom and gloom in the Bay Area, as people are forced to give up their second homes and their fancy cars.
Me, I never was part of the upturn, because I chose to live and work in Arizona. We missed most of it.
Every day I watch CNBC while I work. Every day the government (Bush, Greenspan, Harvey Pitt, any Senator or Representative) says something. And every day the stock market goes down.
The SEC has until August 15 to look at the books of public companies and see if there is misstatement of revenues or earnings. I�ll bet more bad news is on the horizon from the re-stating that will inevitably occur even in companies who didn�t commit accounting fraud. Better safe than sorry, will be the thinking, already articulated by Intel�s Andy Bryant as he announced 4000 layoffs by attrition. Look for the stock market to go down more.
The tech community and its economy are still bleeding. If Broadvision is still paying a lease on a building it no longer needs and didn�t even move into, how much more of that is happening? How many other companies are stuck with overhead they can�t legally get out of, while their sales are still flat or diminished? In Excite�s case, the lease outlives the company.
What do we learn here about overhead? These companies, flush with cash from their IPOs, run by young people with no experience of a downturn, rushed to expand to fill orders from customers, many of whom themselves do not exist anymore. How can there be a comeback. Who will be the customer?
The government can�t help us here. Everyone in Bush�s cabinet, seemingly, has been a corporate officer at one time or another. But they�ve all done exactly what is now being investigated � which is why Dick Cheney, being sued for his activities running Halliburton, has not spoken out more forcefully about corporate governance.
We just have to wait it out. We can do that in California, Arizona, or anywhere else we happen to be. We live in a global universe, and when America sneezes, other countries get pneumonia complicated by epilepsy.
Me, I�ve gotten myself a tmobile account so I can wirelessly connect at 11 mbs from any Starbucks. I�ve taken a few yoga classes in Pacifica, not far from Montara, the beach town where Chelsea lives.
In her town, the people are mostly farmers and fishermen. All day long there are men working on things around the neighborhood. They hammer, saw, plant and mow. I guarantee they are not knowledge workers. They catch salmon and sell it to knowledge workers. One family has an alpaca farm. When I walk the dogs, the alpacas come out to greet us. They look like characters in a Spielberg movie. The alpaca farmer sheers his pets and sells the sweaters to knowledge workers.
In the Pacifica Starbucks, I met a man who is seriously studying yoga from books and does not appear to work at all. I also met a man who brings his dog there every day. The dog is trained to jump into a chair outside the store and wait while the man gets coffee. Amidst all this, I�m seriously thinking of becoming a barista. Now, *that�s* a knowledge worker.