Grateful Dead: The Earliest Silicon Valley Startup

But they were unwitting pioneers of innovative practices now embraced by Silicon Valley, according to experts gathered this week at San Jose State to study the cultural, business, sociological and spiritual aspects of one of the most consistently top-grossing bands in the entertainment industry.

Their acumen — creating personalized customer service, early social media, virtual communities, consistent product quality and “open access” to free recordings — built a business legacy that persists today, almost 20 years after the death of leader Jerry Garcia, said academics.

“The Grateful Dead were in fact an early startup and can be included as one of the many wild success stories to emerge from Silicon Valley,” said Jaime Baldovinos, a Mill Valley computer software developer who researched song lyrics that reveal the band’s “creative destruction” ethos — also embraced as the “disruptive economy” needed to move technology forward.

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