Decoding Silicon Valley - Michelle E. Messina and Jonathan C. Baer

Decoding Silicon Valley - Michelle E. Messina and Jonathan C. Baer

Discover the Silicon Valley ecosystem and how this can help boost your business.

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Did you know that the number of startups has been growing progressively around the world? In the book, "Decoding Silicon Valley", Michelle E. Messina and Jonathan Baer explain that this involves new entrepreneurs with visionary and smart ideas, however many of them don't know how to start practicing their projects and dreams.

So if you're one of them, nothing better than to acquire knowledge about Silicon Valley, recognised as the largest cluster of innovation and cradle of the biggest companies today.

Want to know more? So come with us and we'll explain everything about it and give tips that will help you build a successful business!

The book "Decoding Silicon Valley"

The book "Decoding Silicon Valley" was written in 2016 and published by Decode Publishers.

In this work, Michelle E. Messina and Jonathan Baer's intention is to decode the myths about Silicon Valley, telling their story and operation running through interviews with entrepreneurs and capitalists as well.

In addition, it clearly shows how new entrepreneurs can benefit from this knowledge to build a successful startup and be prepared to receive money from investors.

Who are Michelle E. Messina and Jonathan C. Baer?

Michelle Messina is American and serial entrepreneur working as a CEO of global training and consulting company, "Explora International LLC", which teaches startups all over the world your knowledge in market, marketing and business development skills.

Besides that, she pioneered the training of Silicon Valley best practices focused on startups in 2004 and has worked in more than 35 countries.

Jonathan Baer is a recovering venture capitalist and serves on several boards. He also provides mentoring to Stanford University's StartX accelerator. Nowadays, he travels around the globe giving speeches and lectures to Startups and its CEOs.

To whom is this book indicated?

"Decoding Silicon Valley" is made for you who wants to be an entrepreneur inspired by the world's biggest technological and innovative center.

The content also can be used by people who wants to create the Silicon Valley mindset or just know and discover its characteristics through 218 pages.

Main ideas of the book "Decoding Silicon Valley"

  • Reveal myths and truths about Silicon Valley;
  • Deconstructs the entire ecosystem that involves Silicon Valley and offers a more attentive look at each component of your organization;
  • Emphasys the importance of networking to get a great experience at Silicon Valley and become a effective entrepreneur;
  • Defines the Valley mindset and how it can be applied in others startups;
  • Explains which characteristics a successful entrepreneur must have and the mistakes that make some Valley companies fail;
  • Highlights best practices to apply in building business wherever you are.

Got interested in these concepts? So let's go deeper into the content of our resume!

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[Book Summary] Decoding Silicon Valley - Michelle E. Messina

Demystifying Silicon Valley

In the first part of the guide, the authors Michelle E. Messina and Jonathan C. Baer familiarize the reader with the main content approached, the Silicon Valley, telling your story briefly.

After the Second World War, veterans who served at local military bases decided to stay in Valley's area and started to participate at Stanford University, occurring an increase in the number of students and resulting pressure for a bigger financial investment from the university.

Subsequently, the Stanford Industrial Park was founded, which attracted a lot of companies to the region and opened space to new startups and companies that are growing.

The name, Silicon Valley, was created in 1972, by Don Hoefler, referring to semiconductors produced by the startups of the time, which used silicon chips.

Due to this growth, the Valley has become a big industrial centre and has a lot of successful companies like Apple, eBay, Google, Facebook and Intel.

Faced with this, it originated the myth, known as Silicon Valley Mystique, that for a company to succeed, it must be created there, and many entrepreneurs believe that just being in the Valley, they will succeed in their careers and enrich.

But before explaining what is myth or truth, the book Decoding Silicon Valley clarifies many facts and statistics for the reader:

  • The market value of private companies located in Valley worth 2 to 10 times more than other firms from elsewhere;
  • California has about $94 billions capital, nowadays;
  • A significant number of bright and ambitious people, with visionary ideas, go to the Valley initiate their startups;
  • Investors from Valley are willing to bet in people and smart ideas, just before their startups get succeed;
  • It's easier to start a successful business there than in other place of the world.

Michelle Messina and Jonathan Baer also demystify some points about Silicon Valley:

  • It's not the only region to build a successful company. Countless famous companies were born in other locations, like Tencent and Alibaba, which are chinese firms;
  • Good entrepreneurs can come everywhere, not just there;
  • Most of the companies located at the Valley take 7 to 10 years to achieve their acquisition point. It's not a day to another like everyone believes;
  • A lot of people think exists something mystical in Valley's water or air, which makes it what it is. That's obviously not true. The ideal formula to create startups is learning by doing, believing in people who have walked that path successfully and owning resources centered in one place.

The author concludes that Silicon Valley is egalitarian. Talent is what matters!

The Silicon Valley you see

Silicon Valley is composed of an ecosystem which comprises very intelligent and capable people; this, added to the support of institutions, makes it works very well.

The book "Decoding Silicon Valley" helps to understand a little more about its components:


Entrepreneurs are the most important people for Silicon Valley. They're the basis for all functioning of startups, because of their creative and brilliant mindset, willing to take risks and passionate for success.

While some wants to get rich, others has a desire to make the difference.


The Valley acquired a great number of potential customers for over the years and this allows startups to get closer to their target market, making them knowing better their wishes and necessities and develop a good relationship with them, which will brings benefits to the company.


Contrary to popular belief, Silicon Valley doesn't have intervention by the American government. Economic developing in the region happens thanks to the market money.

On the other hand, it has an important part in this process because facilitates that new companies are opened based on their legal regime. Michelle and Jonathan explain:

"A new company can become a legal entity literally within hours."


Despite the fact that many successful entrepreneurs studied at universities in Valley, like Stanford University, their firms weren't born from research initiatives. They created their own projects.

What universities offers to students is access to famous investors and entrepreneurs, and encourages them to mix business and engineering knowledges to integrate technology with market innovation.

This are just some pieces of the puzzle called Silicon Valley, and understand them make us realize how unique and inspiring this ecosystem is!

Overview: The Silicon Valley you must experience

Networking is a concept very used in entrepreneurship world, and extremely important for those who work with it. Do networking increase your network of contacts and improve your personal marketing to achieve positive results.

That's what the authors Michelle and Jon Baer say in this part of the book. They emphasize the importance of creating a connection with people around you and increasing the cycle of relationships, making a lot of doors to open for you.

It also ensures that being present in the Valley will give you more chances to find the right people who will help you get success and raise capital.

We are going to approach the main suggestions of the authors about how to perform a good networking, in Silicon Valley or anywhere else that has a business environment:

  • Be polite and punctual to cause a first good impression;
  • Ask for advices and feedbacks;
  • Listen more and talk less;
  • Be prepared to answer questions;
  • Going to events will keep you connected and visible;
  • To build a good relationship, go in search of learning more about the person and his personal interests;
  • Conquer the trust of other by being open and true about yourself;
  • Develop your network through LinkedIn, which is a professional social network.

There's no secret. Be part of the community, go to events, meet people and build relationships. This will help you become an entrepreneur with a brilliant career!

The Silicon Valley mindset

To understand this part of "Decoding Silicon Valley", let's first define what is mindset. According to the researcher and author of the book, "Mindset", Carol Dweck, this word refers to your mentality, how you organize your thoughts and how it interferes with your behavior.

Silicon Valley mindset is a very important aspect of the region. This place has a single way of seeing, evaluating and growing business using the best practices in a disciplined way. As it is quoted in the book:

"People in Silicon Valley - entrepreneurs, investors, bankers, lawyers - all speak the same language of business here. Entrepreneurship is our common frame of reference."

The Valley has a mindset that is defined by 4 items:

1. Valley View

According to the author Michelle Messina, each member must focus in one specific point of the company, that is, the assessment of each aspect is divided between entrepreneurs, future employees, clients, partners and investors to contribute to their growth together.

2. Problem and solution identification

In Silicon Valley, the priority is search a solution to the problem of a specific market or client, even before thinking about the product that will be sold or the service that will be rendered.

3. Product and market fit

This is the most difficult part of creating a startup, that's why it should be well done and thought out. The startup's management must test a product to find out what really works and fits the market.

4. Value Creation

Value Creation is the accomplishment of actions that grow a business value.

According to Michelle Messina and Jon Baer, the value creation of a company is based on it's team, skills, market presence and gains.

Silicon Valley has a unique broad view of creation and grow that directly influences the success of your startups, and this practices can be used by entrepreneurs all over the world.

Breaking the rules and other tactics

The book, Decoding Silicon Valley, explains that to be a successful entrepreneur you must break the rules and take risks. This could be challenger at the beginning, but this tactic will boost your career and offer more opportunities in business.

As the authors say:

"The Silicon Valley mindset is that rules are meant to be broken. Asking for forgiveness, not permission, is the norm here, and it really works!"

We will cite here some skills, which are explained in the book by Michelle and Jonathan Baer, for you to become a good entrepreneur:

  • Always seek to be a problem solver;
  • Take risks;
  • Good entrepreneurs must develop several roles;
  • Always try new things;
  • Share your ideas with other people to receive feedbacks;
  • Listen to the opinion of others but make your own decision;
  • Promote diversity in your company;
  • Focus on where you want to be;
  • Learn how to say no for a client or a investor;
  • Accept the uncertainties and difficuts that will show up along the way.

Beyond these tips, to build a career in entrepreneurship you need to know the reasons that carry a company into fail.

In general, it happens due to the loss of money, activity performances that did not work, or because the company needed more capital than it could raise.

What differs Silicon Valley from other places is that it focuses on success rather than failure, and when this happens it is seen as a corporation mistake and not just an individual entrepreneur's error.

What do other authors says about it?

The author, José Dornelas, defendes, in his book, "Entrepreneurship", the importance of creating and keeping a network of contacts that can give you assistance and help in the development and implementation of an idea to build a promising business.

In the book, "The Lean Startup", the author, Eric Ries, teaches how it is possible to validate ideas to know if a product adds value to the customers or not. This is called MVP or "minimum viable product".

Finally, at "Good to Great", the author, Jim Collins, explains how to apply the discipline culture in a company can boost results, spreading this practice to all employees, which are essential to the success of an organization.

Okay, but how can I apply this to my life?

  • Have in mind all your goals and start to practicing them: take a time to reflect, try writing on paper to make visualization easier. A great tool are the targets S.M.A.R.T.;
  • Study all the possibilities and possible results;
  • Practice the Silicon Valley mindset in your daily life;
  • Don't be scary to take risks;
  • Develop your networking wherever you are;
  • Be receptive to feedbacks;
  • Trust in success, and not in failure.

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Book 'Decoding Silicon Valley'