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Silicon Valley should be making products for Middle America, investor Jeremy Liew says

Liew says the Valley needs to come to terms with the fact that it’s a bubble that doesn’t represent “normal America.”

The Scale Collective Event Monica Schipper/Getty Images

Before he was a venture capitalist, Lightspeed Venture Partners’ Jeremy Liew spent nearly two years managing Netscape — the post-Time-Warner-merger version, that is. And it taught him a powerful lesson about what separates the people who use technology from those who create it.

“Of course, Netscape was my homepage,” Liew said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “I would see the same article every day as the header on the Netscape homepage. I went to our editor in chief and [asked], ‘Why is this still on our homepage, on the fourth day in a row?’ It was like, ‘Top Ten Ways to Do Something,’ I don’t know. She said, ‘I’ll change it when people stop clicking on it.’”

“The point is, we use the internet differently than normal people do,” he added. “It was my homepage, and therefore because I was the general manager of the site, I was seeing it 10 times a day, 20 times a day. I was sick of seeing that same article, but normal people at that time were not logging onto the internet multiple times a day, every single day. It was new to them.”

Consumer habits have changed since the early 2000s, but tech’s bubble mentality has not, Liew said.

“If you lived here in Silicon Valley, and just judged from the experiences that you had, you’d think the Tesla Model S is the top-selling car in America,” he said.

He urged entrepreneurs to think about how their products will affect people in drastically different markets, from Middle America to third-world countries. If they don’t, they will risk being out-innovated by startups in those places that do see the unrealized opportunities.

“Silicon Valley is such an isolated bubble,” Liew said. “Our reality is not the reality of a normal American in normal America. And that is what is preventing as much insight and therefore innovation happening here.”

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