LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman built a technology giant in Silicon Valley, but he has been spending more time in Seattle recently as a startup investor and Microsoft’s newest board member. Hoffman offered his observations about the two tech hubs as part of a wide-ranging talk this afternoon at the Tech Alliance annual luncheon.
Interviewing Hoffman on stage, tech executive and angel investor Sarah Imbach asked Hoffman what he was learning from Microsoft’s scale and focus, and applying to the rest of the work.
“Silicon Valley tends to be very myopic — to be focused on one or two things, which has some strengths as well as weaknesses,” Hoffman said, observing that Microsoft Surface devices and HoloLens headsets tend to be afterthoughts in Silicon Valley compared with Mac laptops and Oculus Rift headsets.
But he said he has been impressed by the “depth of tech” in the Seattle region.
He explained, “I think it would be useful for Seattle and Microsoft to be more in that discussion, and it’s going to be something I’m going to try to help with. But the learning was, ‘Hey, there’s a bunch of really good tech up there.’” People in Silicon Valley should factor that into their thinking more than they currently do, he said.
Hoffman also cited ongoing work by Microsoft to partner with Silicon Valley companies. “Part of what I have done already in the last couple months is made some connections, and said, ‘Hey, yeah, there’s a really great technology here — maybe you guys should have a conversation, because actually that partnership could work for both of you.’” He added that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has “done a great job” of building a “we-can-partner-with-you culture.”
Hoffman noted that Silicon Valley can be “naive” about a lot of things.
“Silicon Valley tends to be: Like, build one product, everyone in the world uses it, just be technologically utopian and don’t adjust to local regulation or local politics… There are strengths to that too, but there are also weaknesses,” said Hoffman. “I think actually one of the things I have already taken from people like (Microsoft president) Brad Smith and others is that: ‘OK, how do you try to get to a blended strategy, where you have some strengths on both sides, and is that a more adaptive and a better way of growing.’”
The LinkedIn co-founder is an investor in companies including Seattle-based Convoy, which won Startup of the Year at last night’s GeekWire Awards.
Stay tuned for more coverage of Hoffman’s talk at the Tech Alliance event.