I write about branding and not about politics. Not because I don’t have a viewpoint, but because there are many smart(er) people discussing politics, and I am smart enough not to touch the subject of politics in my professional life. That being said, last week’s rampage of a disturbed 22 year old in a California college town (who legally purchased his guns despite known doubts about his mental state) was yet another one of many gun-amok stories we read on a nearly weekly basis in the United States. This is about politics, yes, clearly, but providing a solution to it is about society, intervention and invention, something I do like writing about.
Solutions are being brought to the table by amazing entrepreneurs (and funded by Silicon Valley VCs), such as the smart gun, but since the gun lobby won’t give in anytime soon, we won’t see these products disrupt the market. Now it is up to us brilliant civilians to intervene. If we can not stop guns from being freely accessible to anyone, what can be done to prevent these crimes from happening? Today I find this question more exciting than other disruptive innovation conversations, which for anyone who follows my thoughts knows that these are usually the conversations I enjoy the most. In times where apps can be written overnight to assist most any specific pain point, and Google (as a whole) can detect nearly anyone and anything online, how can it be that a clear plan of this attack was posted on YouTube a day prior to the massacre happening, and yet it still did happen?
Why can’t there be a search app, like mention, that specifically sifts through social media for phrases detecting sociopath attacks like these? Seems like it could be created easily and monitored by volunteer analysts. Call me naive, and it very well will not be quite that simple, but I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that some of the brilliant people reading this post can come up with an MVP that can be pushed into a live beta very quickly. If the ROI we see is one single potentially saved life, I feel that this in itself would be worth the effort. The government and the NRA let us down, now we look at you Silicon Valley; not because you are an easy target in 2014, but because I for one truly believe that at least the temporary ‘solution’ to disrupt this vicious cycle lies in the talented hands of a single programmer or an outraged entrepreneur. And there is no place better to look for that than in Silicon Valley.
Many tech startup founders pitch their project by saying ‘It’s just like Instagram, but with [filling in their differentiator],’ or, ‘Imagine Pinterest, but only [filling in their differentiator]’. Quite peculiar, most of them are located in places like Silicon Alley, Silicon Hill or Silicon Forest.
With ‘startup’ being the thing to do for many (particularly right out of college) this hot minute, it is the idea of starting something (anything really) that is often greater than the business idea in itself. Innovations turned into variations of the same, leaving the invention behind, while startup meccas themselves turned to cloned names: Silicon Alley (New York), Silicon Beach (Los Angeles’ West Side – Note: we pushed for the name Tech Coast), Silicon Roundabout (London), Silicon Forest (Portland), Silicon Hill (Washington D.C.) not to be mistaken with Silicon Hills (Austin), Silicon Border (Mexicali), Silicon Sloboda (Moscow) and many more.
Silicon Valley was named after the prosperous semiconductor manufacturers that were inhabiting the surrounding San Francisco area in the 1970’s. Today, as too many Silicon Valley clones are churning out too many Snapchat clones, it is time to remind ourselves what Silicon Valley was named after: An element; and there are no two elements that are alike. Silicon as an element only exists once. The periodic table is yours to experiment with.
Time to get creative. I can’t wait to hear about, better yet, be part of that journey.