Silicon Valley: There’s no bubble but there could be a bust…

Are we in a bubble? This is the common question as I chat with people at various events around Silicon Valley.

The concern that many are expressing is that if it’s a bubble, then a crash is not far off. But that’s a misdirection of concern, I’m far more worried that the economy will crash long before Silicon Valley’s boom has had a chance to bubble and burst.

I see the current boom as a resumption of where Silicon Valley was in mid-2008. Finally, after the bubble burst in 2000, funding was coming back and so were jobs and optimism about the future.

But that momentum was cut short by Wall Street’s financial meltdown. It had a huge effect on Silicon Valley. Funding across all startups was put on hold, re-evaluated, and thousands of jobs were cut; Sequoia Capital published its infamous “R.I.P Good Times” slide deck.

Today funding is back in a big way, and so it seems are IPOs with a stellar opening by LinkedIn. Money returned to investors finds its way into new startups, which is great for Silicon Valley and its capital investment cycle.

Silicon Valley is finally back in business after a long decade spent digging out from the dotcom bomb. It’s a boom that should last a solid two to three years given the track record of prior business cycles.

But are we be headed for another 2008-like disappointment?

Government and consumer debt levels are huge, home sales are weak, employment growth is inconsistent, and Wall Street firms continue to engage in high risk investment strategies with destabilising effects. Bad economic signs are everywhere.

After a slow yet steady climb towards recovery, the economic data that has emerged in the past five weeks has been worrying to many. In fact, whispers of the dreaded words, “double dip recession” are already making the rounds.

However, majority of the reporting has steered clear of this scare-mongering and tended to focus on how long this softening of the markets willl last.

For example, Reuters reported:

The economy may be in for a long period of soft growth after employers hired the fewest number of workers in eight months in May and the unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent.

And CNBC wrote:

“It seems that almost every bit of data about the health of the US economy has disappointed expectations recently,” said [Mike Riddell, a fund manager at M&G Investments], in a note sent to CNBC on Wednesday.

But in Silicon Valley everyone is hiring, PR firms are over-loaded with work, conferences are full, and startup engineers are dining out on sushi rather than instant two minute noodles. It would be a shame if all this hard-earned boom were cut short as it was in 2008. But that’s a very real risk, in my honest opinion.



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