Michael Malone: "In fifteen years, the face of Silicon Valley will be an Indian woman"

By Sarah Lacy , written on August 1, 2014

From The News Desk

Unlike many Valley bloggers I have zero interest in ever becoming a venture capitalist. Likewise, I didn't have much interest in starting a company-- I simply found myself with no job, a new baby and nothing better to do.

So there's exactly one person whose career I utterly, disgustingly, shamelessly envy in Silicon Valley. One person-- and one person only -- that I'd professionally switch places with: The great Michael Malone.

Malone has been covering the Valley twice as long as I have, and I've been at it 15 years. He was a veteran reporter for the San Jose Mercury News in its heyday, breaking huge stories about Silicon dumping, roving around the Valley getting nominated for Pulitzers in the days when the place made things and rows and rows of factory workers did uppers to keep up with the demands. It was a different place in many ways, although much of the Valley has stayed almost unbelievably consistent over that time.

And I feel like I've almost experienced that time through Malone's amazing books-- his twentieth just came out and it's about my absolute favorite historical figure in the Valley: Robert Noyce. HOLY. SHIT.

There is no one better to write this book, which is more precisely about the entire Intel "Trinity" of Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Andy Grove. The Biblical language is intentional. Malone refers to Noyce as the father, Moore (and his law) as the Holy Spirit and Grove as the flawed, dramatic son.

There have been plenty of books written about these three, but not by such an expert hand as Malone. His book "The Big Score" is required reading for new Pando hires and his book "Infinite Loop" made me want to write narrative nonfiction. And, unlike Noyce-obsessed posers like me, Malone actually knows these guys. He interviewed Noyce a dozen times before he died, and actually did the last interview with Noyce-- captured on grainy footage somewhere inside Stanford. He was also there when Fred Terman walked into his last board meeting at HP. Malone is like a brilliant version of Forrest Gump set in the Valley's most formative decades.

The Churchill Club hosted a talk with Malone earlier this week and I dropped everything to truck down to Santa Clara for it. (I should note he gave an amazing shout out to Pando's Mark Ames, calling his Techtopus wage collusion reporting the best investigative work he's seen in the Valley in twelve years.)

At the end of his talk, I asked him his observations about the way the role of women had changed in the Valley throughout his careful chronicling of it. After all, in the early days of Silicon Valley it was women who were on all those lines making all those chips. He had more optimism about women's place in the future than most, and I thought it was worth sharing.

First, he noted that the companies who succeed in Silicon Valley are the ones who tell the best story, not the ones with the best technology. He pointed to Intel v. Motorola in the early PC age as an example and Apple v. Microsoft is another obvious example. Women, he said, are better story tellers, and not just confined to the PR/marketing "ghetto" as he called it. Given how much more competitive the tech world is getting, women should be in more and more senior roles to tap into this.

But he took it a step further making a bold prediction I haven't heard anyone make; one that recognizes the slow but steady rise of non-male, not-white faces in Valley boardrooms: "I'm calling it, he said, "In 15 years the face of Silicon Valley will be an Indian woman."

I wouldn't bet against him.