Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, discusses the history of silicon as only he can, having watched it from Shockley to Facebook.
In Part III, Ray and Goldman Sachs analyst Peter Marchetti cover the cultural influx and how that helped grow Silicon Valley.
Peter Marchetti has spent the past 20 years as an advisor to some of the most significant families and foundations in the country. He joined the Goldman Sachs team in 2000 after receiving his MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.
Ray Zinn: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another in a series of podcasts regarding the history of Silicon Valley. This is Ray Zinn and I’m the author of Tough Things First and also, one of the founding boys of Silicon Valley. I started in semi-conductors back in 1963, which was just seven years or six years after the industry actually started. So I had to be with you today to have this and the next series of podcasts on the history of the Valley.
And with me is my good friend and buddy, Pete Marchetti. Pete is an investment advisor and counselor, a banker, as you would. And he’s very interested in semi-conductors and in Silicon Valley and its history. So welcome, Pete.
Peter Marchetti: Thanks for having me again, Ray. Looking forward to learning a little bit more about the Valley and the things that have happened over the last 60 years.
Ray Zinn: Yeah. So you had some questions when we ended the last podcast on Silicon Valley. So why don’t you start out with some of your questions you have.
Peter Marchetti: Yeah. Well, on the last podcast, we kind of ended it with you talking about this massive influx of people from all over the world moving to the Valley to fill up all the positions that were needed from all the companies that were starting up in the semi space in particular. And it got me thinking about anytime you have that type of mass migration into an area, that it’s going to change the area quite a bit. And when you have people from all over the world, bringing different cultures and different foods and different ways of operating, that can be pretty interesting.
I was just really curious on what were some of the things that you kind of witnessed being here, in terms of that evolution that was caused from all these people from all over the place coming here?
Ray Zinn: Okay. Well, I can do that, Pete. So again, timeframe wise, we’re talking about the kind of their early days, late 60s, early 70s in Silicon Valley. Again, it was very dynamic. Lots of venture capital started up. A lot of very big venture capital firms, we call them VCs. Sand Hill Road, and Page Mill Road and Palo Alto and Menlo Park really began to take off. Very large amounts of money were pouring into the Valley. Huge amounts of money. I mean, everybody wanted to get on the semi-conductor bandwagon, the Silicon Valley as you would, golden goose. And so, tons of money was pouring in from all over the place. I mean, from Europe and Asia, you had a huge amount of influx of money. And so with that available, a lot of guys wanted to start these companies and you had startups happening almost daily.
And so the cultural change, of course, with people coming from Asia and from Europe and from Canada and Mexico and all these different other countries, you had all this influx of India, the type of foods, just the whole ambiance was multinational. I mean, that’s one of the things that I think spurred the growth of Silicon Valley, was how multinational it was and how it multicultural. I mean, you talk about the rainbow generation. I mean, it was just huge with all these different countries, people pouring in, people having to learn different languages. And it was interesting that how the Valley became so multi-national and people had to learn to get along. I mean, they were neighbors with people they hadn’t known before.
And so the schools, of course now became more multinational. And it was quite interesting to see the transformation that was taking place in the restaurants, all the different kinds of restaurants that were out there, the different kinds of foods, just the different languages.
Peter Marchetti: Did you see a change in kind of corporate culture as well because of that? I mean, were people bringing in ideas and kind of ways of operating in the business environment from other parts of the world?
Ray Zinn: Absolutely. I mean, you had people from Israel. Israel became a big factor by the way in semi-conductors in about that same timeframe. So Israel, again, being a very techie country. And yes, absolutely, you could see a real change in the kind of culture. Because if you look at the types of cultures, the Jewish culture versus the Chinese culture or the Buddhist culture and all these different religious type impacts were coming in, you had to be ahead of a very flexible …
And the Philippines is another one. The Philippines became quite an important group of people that were migrating into the country. And the Vietnamese because of the Vietnam War, allowing the patriation of people from Vietnam. Also, you had a lot of the people from the Philippines coming because of their second world war. We allowed a lot of patriation from the people from the Philippines.
So, the Valley became probably, I think the most diverse area in an entire world. I mean, if you want to look at a microcosm or a kind of a united nations of the world, it was in Silicon Valley. I don’t know of a single culture that didn’t exist in the Valley.
Peter Marchetti: Well, it’s amazing too, because you think mostly at that time, that any diversity that you found in this country was probably heavily centered on urban areas. And now all of a sudden you have a very suburban area and in some ways, a rural area, at certain parts on the edges of the Valley. And now you have all this diversity coming in and bringing in ideas and cultures from all over the world. I mean, it’s unprecedented.
Ray Zinn: Well, we know from experience that diversity does breed a stronger culture. So, if you’re so inbred, if you don’t have any outside influence, you don’t change anything. Change is what makes things move. If you don’t change your stagnant, as I say, if you don’t progress you’ll retrogress. And so with all these different cultures that were now commingling in Silicon Valley, you had a breakup of all that inbreeding that was taking place, whether it be from inbreeding because of the military focus on its needs for technology, to products that were more consumer related.
And so it became, I think a positive aspect, having all these different cultures move in, because it did kind of stop this inbreeding that normally takes place without this multinational cultural mixing.
Peter Marchetti: Right. Well, and you mentioned the change, and this was obviously just the transition a little bit in the conversation, but this was a big change period for you as well in terms of what you were doing in going from an employee. And then just like all these other companies are talking about, this is about the time when you were branching out on your own to make a change.
Ray Zinn: Yeah. So let’s save that for our next podcast. We’ll talk about how that happened, and just some of the other things that I think will be interesting to our audience. So again, thanks Pete for helping us through this podcast today, and we’ll look forward to getting together for our next one.
So this is Ray Zinn. I’m the author of Tough Things First. You can find my book at Amazon or one of your favorite other book retailers, my new book, Zen of Zinn. And I hope to talk to you next time.