Sunday, January 15, 2006

Understanding American Entrepreneurship: Buck's of Woodside: Mecca of the Boom

My work centers on the dynamics of Korea and American business culture. I strive to foster strategic alignment within diverse management. On one level, for American clients I explain Korean business norms and practices; for Koreans, I explain American business norms and practices.

My Korean friends and clients often ask me to tell them about interesting and unique aspects of American business. Since Korea is focused on high-tech, I thought this article I wrote on American entrepreneurship might be of interest to all.

Buck's of Woodside: Mecca of the Boom

California's Silicon Valley is home to HP, Cisco, Yahoo, Apple, Oracle, and the industry. This high-tech intensive area, south of San Francisco, encompasses northern San Jose, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Santa Clara, and Palo Alto, California.

On a recent trip to Silicon Valley, my plans included a visit to the mecca of the early years for the industry--Buck's Restaurant of Woodside. I've read about Buck's over the years--the country eatery profiled in Fortune, Wired, Business Week, and a number of other business magazines including GQ.

Located just off Route 280, the area might host the heaviest concentration of venture capital addresses in the Valley. A haven for many, Buck's Restaurant has a venture-centric menu, with technology start-up and investment gossip that's updated monthly. (In fine print on the front and back of the menu-newsletter is posted STEAL THIS MENU, so, I did.) For example, the most recent issue highlighted Lindland's Cordaround--a horizontally ribbed corduroy pants clothing start-up, and Kiteship, a Santa Cruz based manufacturer of kites--huge high tech sailkites designed to power yachts and ship.

Jamis MacNiven, the irreverent owner of Buck's Restaurant, calls himself "just the pancake guy." But this pancake guy has been on the cover of technology and business magazines. I'm told the quaint, and quirky restaurant has also played host to banking magnate Warren Buffet and even President Bill Clinton.

"Netscape was founded here. And so were hundreds of other tech firms. I've collected some of the scribbled napkins. It's like reading tea leaves," says owner Jamis MacNiven.

At the height of the boom scores of deals were consummated over flapjacks, omelets, and bottomless coffee--in a venue where one would think the talk might have centered on local gossip, not big business, IPOs, and venture capital. With the implosion of the industry in the early 2000s, so too, did the launch of new dot.coms crafted over a meal at Buck's declined.

They're Back...
Word is that dot.coms are back. Serving as an oracle of the industry, talk now at Buck's heralds--the VCs are back again. In fact, owner Jamis MacNiven notes in a recent industry publication that "[VC] are talking about the new half billion dollar fund they just created."

To Conclude...
Understanding the nuances of a business culture can be complex. Unusual business venues like Buck's where mega-deals are conceived and consummated over breakfast add an interesting dimension to American entrepreneurship. Korean business, too, has its own unique norms and practices. Gaining and communicating insights of other cultures is vital in the success of global business--a role I am glad to serve.

To learn more about Buck's visit their website at:

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