I found something I wrote in 1999 when I was blessed to live the Dot Com dream and experience crazy growth, acquisitions and three IPOs.
Found myself numb and tired in California. The land of sun and fun that offers the youth spring eternal, silicon/e serenity and all that other go-west greatness had sucked me dry. Like the desert--although my bones yearned for the end of damp, fog-blanketed days. Sometimes you want to throw off the covers, don a tank and thongs and head to the beach. Not so in sunny California. No. Such a teaser. No one warns of the 8 month winter, the dirty charcoal sand and intimidating (to say the least) ocean. I’ve seen dogs and grown men sucked down in that current. Tell me, when you came here, what were you looking for? The gold in them there hills of days past? You fool. Those nuggets were mined decades ago and even then they required some superhuman strength to survive the conditions. Yes, there’s still gold here. For those left standing, struggling, surviving their personal Donner pass. It’s a hard world and California might just be the hardest. Or maybe it’s the industry. . . or maybe it’s just my weakness. . .
Now, I’m no teary-eyed little girl grasping her father’s hand for security. I let go of that hand long ago (or maybe it was never mine to hold). I grew strong and proud. I laced up my start-up boot-straps, grabbed my shovel and sifter, and went West.
Nothing has changed. This California dirt is still studied, sifted and sorted. Those of us with grimy, dirty fingers pick through the pieces with precision. Pre-IPO, E-commerce, killer app., gold cow. Jargon and last week’s antiquated talk. We speculators understand that the task is daunting in its abundance of sheer frustration.
We sift and search. Search and sift. Pillaging the new resource, information, to obtain what in the end, will really be, nothing more than the clump of earth, sand, and silicon we started with. Only fools base their dreams on the stability of sand castles.
In the end what treasured trinket will mark our diligence? Gold bars, even when positioned as paper weights on the ocean’s floor maintain their value. Stock options, however, like a high school flirt, are fickle—only valuable when someone else wants them. Paper wealth didn’t buy Columbus’ passage and Cleopatra’s kiss required a heavy pittance of precious metal.
I remember visiting Carson City, Nevada with my parents when I was 13. The sepia-tone pictures portrayed a rough, gregarious bunch. The sort that exaggerated everything—their stories, voices and women all were loud. But even with their arms gripped round each other in fraternal support, and smiles flashing bravely, their eyes betrayed their postured confidence. Camaraderie looked more like reverie. Embraces more like death grips. And their eyes, well I’ve seen those eyes. I see them daily and in various forms. They sit beside me on the N Judah, struggling to focus past the window’s reflective glare. Those eyes walk my company’s hallways, charting battle wounds while simultaneously counting their personal calendar—or shall I say vesting schedule? But, most upsetting, I see those eyes reflected in my mirror nightly begging sleep to visit without the help of placebo pills to stop my brain’s mile-a-minute-marathon.
I see a youth that is lost searching. I see someone who is striving to find something, to achieve the next big thing, but not sure when to give up the struggle or even recognize the prize when it’s won. At present, I can devise only one solution. Search for that next big thing, the one great IPO, collect stock and under-eye circles, and never complain that the mines are too dark and the hours too long. Sift and sift. Search, and sift some more and make sure those tiny threads of sanity and childhood dreams don’t slip through the grating to join the other remnants of Silicon Valley’s discards.