Silicon Valley vs. Hollywood: Clash of the Corporate Cultures

12:00 PM PST 05/29/2014 by Sharon Swart
Illustrations by: Brown Bird Design

Power lunch? No such thing in Silicon Valley. Executive suites? They're exclusively Hollywood, while celebrity chefs cook on tech campuses. Failure? For one industry, it means career jail; for the other, a rite of passage and badge of honor (guess which one is which?).

This story first appeared in the June 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

On the surface, Silicon Valley and Hollywood have a lot in common. They both trade in creativity, depend on attracting eyeballs and worship out-of-nowhere success. But that's where the similarities end, says Nick Bilton, author of Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal. "They are only a few hundred miles apart but light-years in terms of culture," he says. Hollywood may still have the "cool factor that can dazzle tech geeks," says an observer who has straddled both worlds, but "the dividing line comes down to money. The numbers are just so much bigger in the tech world. People in Hollywood can't help but look on with some admiration" at such deals as Facebook's $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp.

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One of the biggest contrasts is communication style: Hollywood never likes to say no, while "in tech, you are expected to give direct, even critical feedback and be brutally honest," says Sibyl Goldman, Facebook's head of entertainment partnerships. "That's how products are improved and features evolve to become awesome." The Valley is seen as being driven by innovation, while Hollywood has a rep for being hidebound. Still, not all stereotypes ring true, observes Rich Raddon, co-CEO of Venice, Calif.-based online video venture Zefr: "Entertainment is relationship-driven. Tech is data-driven. When we first showcased YouTube fan uploads, studios quickly embraced it. Hollywood doesn't get credit for innovation like San Francisco does, but it can occur in L.A. as long as it's not disruptive to the core business model." Other key differences between the cultures follow.

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