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Why use a top-down approach when a bottom-up one will do?

When I worked at the PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Technology Centre during the height of the Internet Bubble, we were regularly visited by what we called the “Invest in <Mumble>” delegations.  These were investment authority groups from cities, states, regions, provinces, and even the occasional Principality.  Their mission: to find out what orders to issue to get a Silicon Valley in their catchment area.

I recall one group who came from an EMEA city and were wondering how to approach the problem of siting a huge multimedia facility that they were planning.  They had a list with what my then-young kids would have called a “bazillion” criteria.  It was a super-sized list, a real top-down approach.

We asked them if there were existing multimedia firms in or around the city.  They said “yes”.  We asked them if they knew which pub or pubs were the watering holes for the troops from the existing firms.  They said “yes.”

Why didn’t they site the new multimedia center near those pubs, we asked?  Amazement.  Deep respect for the geniuses from the Tech Centre.  But what had we done except port the old story about the campus paths and the first snowstorm to the new problem area?  If we had any genius, it lay in seeing that we didn’t have use a killer top-down approach.  A bottom-up one would work just fine.


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About the author

an Gordon is Research Director for Valhalla Partners, a Northern Virginia venture capital firm. Dan has twenty-eight years experience working with technology, as a computer scientist, software developer, manager, analyst, and entrepreneur. Prior to joining Valhalla Partners, Dan was a Director and senior staff member at the PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Technology Centre, analyzing technology trends and consulting on technology-oriented strategies in the software, e-business, wireless, optical, networking, semiconductor IP, and life sciences arenas. He worked with clients from North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia. Dan was a Contributing Writer and Contributing Editor to the Technology Centre’s annual Technology Forecast, and a frequent speaker at industry and general business meetings. Before joining PwC, Dan spent 20 years in Silicon Valley as a software technologist, manager, director, and entrepreneur, including senior technical roles at well-known Silicon Valley firms like Symantec, Intuit, and Oracle. Dan has also been involved in startup companies in the applied Artificial Intelligence and Web applications fields. Dan has a B.A. (cum laude) from Harvard University and an M.S. from New York University in Computer Science. He is a Professional Member of the IEEE and ACM. Dan lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and two children.