Sometimes people ask me why I’m always writing blog posts and speaking at events. “Simple,” I say. “Silicon Valley has a short attention span. If I don’t keep my name in front of people, they’ll forget who I am.”
If they don’t believe me, I respond with what I like to call the Yahoo test.
“Can you name Yahoo’s first outside CEO? He ran the company from 1995 to 2001.”
Almost no one can do it, even if they lived through the Dot Com boom.
Only a tiny fraction of people even hazard a guess, and the vast majority of those guess Terry Semel, which is incorrect.
Remember, from 1995 to 2001, Yahoo was the world’s largest Internet company, making its CEO the most powerful man on the Internet. And less than a decade later, the vast majority of people can’t even think of his name.
The great thing about Silicon Valley is that you can go from rags to riches in the blink of an eye. But that same feverish pace makes it all too easy for people to forget you, no matter what your accomplishments.
Does it take work to write blog posts, moderate panels, and try desperately to stay in the public eye? You bet. But it beats obscurity.
P.S. Yahoo’s first outside CEO was Tim Koogle.
P.P.S. I once shared this story with a prominent Valley figure (who, incidentally, remembered Tim Koogle right away). He countered with what might be an even better story. Apparently, the first time Mark Zuckerberg met Marc Andreessen, Zuck asked Marc, “So, what did Netscape do?”