Tom Meets His Neighbor, Cubist Pharmaceuticals …

And Says …
“Who the Hell Are You?”
They Reply …
“We’re #1!”

The attitude in China a couple of weeks ago was pretty good, maybe better than pretty good. There were economic problems, but the group of mostly entrepreneurs I was with vibrated with energy and lived to turn others’ problems into their opportunities. Economically (I’m not talking nukes here), the feeling was also pretty good in Korea. Moreover, I was in Seoul to be part of Korea’s launch of a new growth strategy, focused on global leadership in “green” industries, and marking a radical departure from business-as-was; the goal is to go beyond “doing good work” to unalloyed planetary leadership in arenas that matter. It did not seem incongruous to them or me that we were having a refreshing discussion of a brave new & exciting future when the current economic numbers were still sketchy—and surprises, even bad ones, could be in store. (E.g., how will the world’s markets react to an almost certain GM bankruptcy? For what it’s worth, my layman’s bet is that after a hiccup or two or three, the markets will settle down and take it in stride. Maybe six months ago the psychology would have been such that true panic would have set in, but not now.) To sum it up, there’s no bunker mentality—moving ahead smartly, even audaciously, is the order of march.

In a somewhat similar vein, I’ve been carrying around a couple-week-old special section of the Boston Globe, titled, “Globe 100: The Best of Massachusetts Business.” Some things about MA seem to bug some people, but the academic and entrepreneurial firepower concentrated here surely makes it a Top 10 “success city” in the world—or, rather, success region. (We benefit from a bunch of such regions in the U.S., like the SF Bay Area/Silicon Valley, with no real earthly parallels, Greater Austin, Greater Seattle, Greater D.C., Greater Houston, Raleigh-Durham, Madison WI, great swaths of the LA Basin, etc.)

I found the “Globe 100” fascinating. Three of the top five finishers, 13 of the top 25, and 31 of the top 50 were tech companies—that number should actually be about 35; some of the so-called “service” companies are essentially tech companies. I have a house in Boston, though I’m hardly a regular resident, and business in general is my beat—hence I definitely should be plugged into “all this.” So I was literally dumbfounded that of the 13 tech companies in the top 25, I had never heard of eight of them—and in particular I’d never heard of #1, Cubist Pharmaceuticals! (It’s a half-billion-dollar revenue company—the rankings are performance-based, not size based.)

I actually think my ignorance is very cool—and important. You could say, surely, that it condemns me as “out of it.” But I think that would be an erroneous conclusion. My conclusion is that there is a truckload or two or three or four or forty or four thousand of largely-invisible-absolutely-fabulous great stuff going on from Greater Boston to Greater Shanghai to Greater Seoul. The developed world is indeed in the middle of a profoundly troubling financial-economic crisis, and the impact will be felt for years; but unlike the Great Depression, all sorts of extraordinary things are going on or in the works or even accelerating—and the promise of a raft (a big, big, big raft) of future tech-based Revolutions (yes, with a capital “R”) is mind boggling; and cause for extraordinary, almost giggle-worthy mid- to long-term optimism.

Shanghai’s irrepressible entrepreneurs.
Korea’s aggressive, bold green initiative.
The “Globe 100.”

And now I’m off to Delhi …*

(*NB: my trip-to-Delhi reading is alibaba: The Inside Story Behind Jack Ma and the Creation of the World’s Biggest Online Marketplace, by Liu Shiying and Martha Avery. Wow!)

(It would be ironic if this Post appeared the day GM applied for bankruptcy. But if it were so, I would not change a word. While I would weep for dislocated families and shuttered businesses, I would also remind myself, and you, that it ain’t a GM world, and it actually hasn’t been for a good quarter century—even in the U.S.A.)

Tom Peters posted this on May 27, 2009, in Markets.
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