An article in a travel magazine discussed the prevalence of billionaires amongst a local university’s recent graduates, related, it seems to its proximity to Silicon Valley. That these billionaires all had some sort of computer science background in common as well should be no surprise even to those of my readers, some of whom are some distance removed from the local area who possibly may still use quill and ink.
It’s also no great surprise that so many of these newly minted grandees should end up so wealthy. Wealthy on paper, at any rate, as doubtless most of them have assets- net of BMWs and Lamborghinis and Porsches, of course- mostly composed of restricted issues of stock or other business equity, the result of some IPO or takeover or investment from the myriad venture capital firms that proliferate in the greater Bay Area. The plain fact is, despite the economic doldrums, we exist in an environment capital rich for certain, read ‘tech’, industries.
When thinking about the less tangible but ever so present products of technology- search engines, social networking sites, and any other manner of ostensibly free online services- the question is begged about what it is they have in common. The answer is- everything, at least in so far as success in this virtual world is measured. They are all reliant upon online advertising for their revenue stream, which advertising amounts to precious little- witness the numbers of heavily capitalized companies that either are marginally profitable or have yet to become so. For ourselves, our foray into internet advertising lasted only a couple of months and netted us nothing but a bill from the search engine. With all that, enough businesses large and small have the occasional flutter that, presumably, there exists at least one plus new advertising punter for each one that drops out.
There also seems to be a notion abroad that, lacking profit, site activity itself has some not quantifiable but nevertheless tangible value, with each site hit yielding some kind of personal information that may provide some valuable marketing information in the future. Seems reasonable, I suppose, but, looking at my daily junk folder, whatever personal information has been gleaned about me results almost entirely in ads for Viagra and knock-off wrist watches. If the sources of any of those emails reads this- for the record, my extremities both above and below the waist are well kitted out, thank you very much.
Still and all, something good must be happening, because the local unemployment rate is about the lowest in the nation, and local real estate economy is ticking along nicely. And I guess luxury car sales must be pretty good. But the economic strength that most would admit is largely a local phenomenon shouldn’t occlude the fact that for a very limited number of fortunate individuals, they happened to be in the right place at the right time, doing the right job.