The View From the Valley

The Tech Issue

What does Silicon Valley think of Peter Thiel? Why did people fall for Theranos? And what’s in store for Marissa Mayer? In our third annual Silicon Valley Insiders Poll, more than 50 tech executives, innovators, and thinkers weigh in.

Photos by Zohar Lazar

What’s the most exciting start-up right now?

  • Slack (a group messaging app) 7%
  • Docker (a “software containerization” platform) 7%
  • Magic Leap (an augmented reality company) 5%
  • Niantic (the maker of Pokémon Go) 5%

Deep Mind, which is owned by Google. As artificial intelligence becomes the new oil, its algorithms could end up generating the major part of the wealth of one of the wealthiest companies in the world.”—Kevin Kelly, senior maverick, Wired

Enigma. It’s an MIT-spawned company doing super-interesting work in anonymity and privacy—an important social and business problem.”—Mike Olson, chief strategy officer, Cloudera

Dropcam. Seeing my daughter go to bed or wake up while I’m on the road is amazing.”—Rachel Holt, head of U.S. and Canada operations, Uber

“I’ve been impressed by uBeam and its goal of creating a world without wires for electric charging.”—Mohan Patt, vice president of product and shopping experience, eBay

Glow, which leverages data science to help women get pregnant.”—Sylvio Drouin, vice president, Unity Labs

Do you own a Tesla?

  • No: 31%
  • Yes: 69%

“Yes, I am a living stereotype: CEO of a tech company called Rocket Fuel and driving a Tesla. But the torque is mind-blowing!!”—Randy Wootton, CEO, Rocket Fuel

Which new app or product is about to become a household name?

  • Amazon Echo/Alexa 29%
  • Augmented reality (especially Pokémon Go) 18%
  • “If I knew, I’d be rich.” 9%

Which company will be the first to bring a fully driverless car to market?

  • Tesla 65%
  • Google 13%
  • Mercedes-Benz 6%
  • Uber 6%

In what year?

  • 2017 2%
  • 2018 13%
  • 2019 16%
  • 2020 36%
  • 2021 9%
  • 2022 7%
  • 2023 4%
  • 2024 4%
  • 2025 9%

In 2014, Theranos (a blood-testing company) was valued at $9 billion. Two years later, it was under criminal investigation. Why didn’t more people see its meltdown coming?

“Wanting to believe in Santa Claus. There are uncomfortable parallels to Trump here, actually: hiding the underlying data beneath the pretense of confidentiality, and a strong ‘This is really exciting, trust me’ message. In both cases, nobody pushed hard enough or dug deeper.”—Jeff Rodman, co-founder, Polycom

“Theranos had name-brand investors, name-brand partners, and a super-accomplished board. The company had major media covering it. And everyone was asleep at the wheel.” —Carl Bass, CEO, Autodesk

Which tech invention of the past five years has most improved your quality of life?

  • Ride-sharing (especially Uber) 33%
  • Fitness trackers and apps 8%
  • Updates to iPhones/iPads 8%

Whom will you vote for in November?

  • Trump: 0%
  • Neither: 5%
  • Undecided: 7%
  • Clinton: 88%

"I’d even take a poorly written PHP script over Trump." —David Cann, CEO, Double Robotics

In what year will more white-collar Americans telecommute than work in offices?

  • 2018 3%
  • 2020 20%
  • 2022 3%
  • 2023 3%
  • 2025 18%
  • 2030 6%
  • 2050 9%
  • Never/not in my lifetime 38%

Which was worse?

  • Peter Thiel’s endorsement of Trump: 56%

“No one seems to be able to quite figure out why he did it. I’m sure he has a nonobvious plan.”—Eric Wahlforss, founder and CTO, Soundcloud

  • Peter Thiel’s war on Gawker: 36%

“Choosing to privately fund an attack on the media ecosystem goes against the very promise of technology.”—Danah Boyd, founder, Data & Society

  • Neither. I approve of both: 8%

“More people should have the courage to put their money and reputations behind their beliefs.”—Andrew Thompson, CEO, Proteus Digital Health

Do you own a robot?

  • Yes: 40%
  • No: 60%

In what year will a majority of American households have one?

  • 2018 5%
  • 2020 9%
  • 2021 5%
  • 2022 9%
  • 2024 2%
  • 2025 33%
  • 2026 5%
  • 2030 9%
  • 2035 2%
  • 2050 5%
  • It already happened/depends on the definition of robot: 16%

“We continuously redefine robot to mean ‘a device more advanced than what people have in their homes.’ Either most American households have had a robot for the past half century, or we will never have robots.”—Waldo Jaquith, director, U.S. Open Data

Should Apple have unlocked the San Bernardino shooter’s phone?

  • No: 78%

“A back door is a back door, period, and unlocking this phone would have set a deeply harmful precedent.”—Katherine Maher, executive director, Wikimedia Foundation

  • Yes: 22%

“Silicon Valley has come to see the government as the enemy, not a public service often trying to keep us safe.”—Glenn Kelman, CEO, Redfin

"Seriously, the NSA can’t crack an iPhone?!?!"—Josh Leslie, CEO, Cumulus Networks

Which tech companies have reputations as being good places for women to work?

  • Facebook 31%
  • Google/Alphabet 26%
  • “I can’t think of one.” 17%
  • Apple 17%
  • Slack 10%
  • Microsoft 7%

Has the tech industry made meaningful progress in addressing sexism in the past three years?

“Civil society and feminist organizations have made great progress in getting their ideas heard, but Silicon Valley is reluctant to change.”—Jillian C. York, director for international freedom of expression, Electronic Frontier Foundation

  • No: 44%
  • Yes: 56%

“Look, 10 years ago no one even talked about the fact that I was the only woman in the room. Now we talk about it a lot. That is progress, folks.”—Leyla D. Seka, senior vice president and general manager of, Salesforce

How much time does Marissa Mayer have left at Yahoo? (posed soon after Verizon bought Yahoo)

  • Weeks: 7%
  • A few months: 34%
  • Six months to a year: 39%

“She has engineered a great result for a company that should have gone out of business two years ago.”—Christian Reilly, CTO, Citrix

  • Verizon will keep her on: 20%

“Do you really think Verizon knows how to run Yahoo any better?” —David Cann, CEO, Double Robotics

Which tech company (besides your own) is the most prestigious to work for?

  • Apple 30%
  • Google/Alphabet 23%
  • Facebook 23%
  • SpaceX 7%

Who has the best job in Silicon Valley?

  • Elon Musk 14%
  • Mark Zuckerberg 12%
  • Jed York (CEO of the San Francisco 49ers) 5%
  • The real estate agents 5%
  • Marissa Mayer 5%

“At least from the point of view of economics.”—Mark Bregman, senior vice president and CTO, NetApp

  • Brian Chesky (CEO OF AIRBNB) 5%

Is Silicon Valley a meritocracy?

“Silicon Valley is a small bubble of existence that mixes meritocracy with luck.”—Jason Holmes, executive vice president and COO, Marketo

  • No: 46%
  • Yes: 54%

"Ha."—Kieran Snyder, CEO, Textio

“A lot of people have incredible narratives, but most of the people at the top were always going to be the people at the top—they had uncomplicated access to opportunities that women and people of color and other minorities simply don’t.” —Rob Markman, manager of artist relations, Genius

What’s the most Silicon Valley–ish thing you’ve ever seen someone say or do?

“‘We are going to disrupt the pet-transportation industry.’”—Mike Ghaff ary, CEO, Yelp Eat24

"A banker recently said the words ‘Right now in the unicorn space, we are seeing…’" —Zander Lurie, CEO, SurveyMonkey

“A founder told me he was getting his entire start-up to try microdosing mushrooms to improve focus.”—Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager of Internet of Things and applications division, Cisco

“It’s a state of mind: thinking that technology can solve every thing, that tech is a meritocracy, that tech is inherently progress, that efficiency is inherently good, etc.”—Danah Boyd, founder, Data & Society

“A prominent venture capitalist said to me while trying to invest in my company, ‘You know how venture is—all those geeky guys holed up in their offices and hot assistants tripping around on high heels.’”—Kieran Snyder, CEO, Textio

"Verbatim quote from a venture capitalist: ‘Call me if you have other investors interested.’"—Mike Olson, chief strategy officer, Cloudera

“Taking a Lyft to your Tesla, which is Luxe valet-parked.”—Sara Haider, head of mobile engineering, Periscope

“I’ve seen someone buy a tech company that wasn’t worth more than $10 million for more than $100 million because they liked the company’s (then) CEO.”—Mike Bell, president and CEO, Silver Spring Networks

"‘My MVP was DOA, so until I figure out my next pivot I’m driving for Uber.’"—Tim Wilson, partner, Artiman

The Panel

Steven Aldrich, chief product officer, GoDaddy, Jonathan Badeen, co-founder and chief strategy officer, Tinder, Carl Bass, CEO, Autodesk, Mike Bell, president and CEO, Silver Spring Networks, Steven Boal, founder and CEO, Quotient, Danah Boyd, founder, Data & Society, Mark Bregman, senior vice president and CTO, NetApp, David Cann, CEO, Double Robotics, Steve Carlin, vice president and general manager, SoftBank Robotics America, Mike Curtis, vice president of engineering, Airbnb, Scott Dietzen, CEO, Pure Storage, Tyler Droll, co-founder and CEO, Yik Yak, Sylvio Drouin, vice president, Unity Labs, Sara Gardner, CTO of social innovation, Hitachi, Mike Ghaffary, CEO, Yelp Eat24, Tom Gonser, founder, DocuSign, Sara Haider, head of mobile engineering, Periscope, Gavin Hall, CTO, TED, Aaron Harris, partner, Y Combinator, Jeff Herbst, vice president of business development, Nvidia, Jason Holmes, exec utive vice president and COO, Marketo, Ryan Holmes, CEO, Hootsuite, Rachel Holt, head of U.S. and Canada operations, Uber, Waldo Jaquith, director, U.S. Open Data, Matt Jones, CEO, E8 Security, Richard Jonker, vice president of SMB product-line management, Netgear, Kevin Kelly, senior maverick, Wired, Glenn Kelman, CEO, Redfin, Philip Krim, CEO, Casper, Josh Leslie, CEO, Cumulus Networks, Chris Livesey, chief marketing officer, Micro Focus, Zander Lurie, CEO, Survey Monkey, Katherine Maher, executive director, Wikimedia Foundation, Rob Markman, manager of artist relations, Genius, Neha Narkhede, co-founder and CTO, Confluent, Mike Olson, chief strategy officer, Cloudera, Cindy Padnos, founder and managing partner, Illuminate Ventures, Jennifer Pahlka, founder and executive director, Code for America, Mohan Patt, vice president of product and shopping experience, eBay, Christian Reilly, CTO, Citrix, Jeff Rodman, co-founder, Polycom, Leyla D. Seka, senior vice president and general manager of, Salesforce, Clara Shih, founder and CEO, Hearsay Social, Kieran Snyder, CEO, Textio, Andrew Thompson, CEO, Proteus Digital Health, Chris Toth, president, Varian Oncology Systems Americas, Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager of Internet of Things and applications division, Cisco, Eric Wahlforss, founder and CTO, Soundcloud, Kira Wampler, chief marketing officer, Lyft, David Weinberger, senior researcher, Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Tim Wilson, partner, Artiman, Randy Wootton, CEO, Rocket Fuel, Jillian C. York, director for international freedom of expression, Electronic Frontier Foundation