Information industry pundit John Blossom, president of Shore Communications and author of the new book Content Nation, recently stopped by Mark Logic on a visit to Silicon Valley and wrote an interesting piece on his ContentBlogger blog.
The post, entitled Silicon Valley Journal: Driving Up the Content Stack of Value, describes his journey as he works his way up Silicon Valley from (roughly) San Jose to San Francisco, observing that there is a general tendency for a vendor’s location in the high-tech stack to be correlated to its latitude, with low-level technologies to the South and applications and services to the North.
Rand [Schulman, his dinner host] observed that the bottom end of the bay was historically home to many of the companies that specialized in the lower-level aspects of the information industry such as hardware and operating systems, and that as one drove up the bay on 101 towards San Francisco you passed by the headquarters of companies that moved further up the technology “stack” towards the media-centric companies in and close to San Francisco itself.
While it’s not something I’d ever noticed before, I would agree that it’s broadly true. More:
Rand’s model is particularly telling in relation to the content industry when you look at what happens in the middle stretch of Silicon Valley along 101. You have companies such as Google in or near Mountain View, rather on the southern-middle end of 101, that perhaps seemed to some like low-level technology plays when they were first launched that today have an enormous influence over the content industry as a whole.
And onto the part about us:
In the dead center of this stretch in San [Carlos] you find the headquarters of Mark Logic, a company specializing in XML server technologies that enable publishers and enterprises to create content services from multiple content sources. At our meeting with the team of Mark Logic CEO Dave Kellogg we heard how Mark Logic is enjoying prosperous times, in part because they’ve honed much of their infrastructure for delivering their services to a highly operable and scalable level and in part because they’re looking up the highway, you might say, towards opportunities that service the content end of Silicon Valley more effectively.
In a sense much of the center of gravity in the content industry is heading towards such technology companies that used to be thought of as “middleware,” rather industrious but supposedly dull bits of this and that that helped to glue diverse information systems together. With source-agnostic content aggregation the focus of much of the value in the content industry these days, you can hardly call companies like Mark Logic dull, much less similarly focused companies such as Google, MuseGlobal and Really Strategies.
Continuing the North/South analysis, I’d say that Facebook (Palo Alto) aside, most of the cool content applications and services companies are indeed up towards San Francisco.
Overall, I’d say that in this framework, we did a good job in locating our headquarters in San Carlos since we are very much as next-generation, mid-level infrastructure company — i.e., above the hardware and operating system layer, but below the application layer.
And, as a side motivational benefit, we can look out the window to see Larry Ellison’s smallest jet periodically take-off from San Carlos airport (suspiciously coded KSQL), lest we ever forget the importance and ubiquity of infrastructure technology in an applications stack.