The Billie Ray Valentine Contest

(Note: Originally published on 7/28/10 at

I’ve been hearing about an underground discussion among the tech crowd called the Billie Ray Valentine Contest. I am not the originator of the contest but since it seems only to be passed on in the crowded hallways of tech conferences, I thought I’d explain it here.

Who is Billie Ray Valentine?

Billie Ray is the Eddie Murphy character in the movie Trading Places. Think Dan Ackroyd and “Lookin’ Good, Billie Ray”.

The story line in Trading Places is that the Duke Brothers (evil Investment Bankers) bet each other “the standard amount” ($1) that they can take a bum off the street and make him into a Wall Street Wonder. Billie Ray gets picked after he tries to rob their exclusive club and they proceed to make him into a star trader, to the detriment of Louis (Dan Ackroyd) and the benefit of the general viewing audience via copious coverage of Jamie Lee Curtis, back in the day before she was pushing digestive-friendly yogurt, if you know what I mean.

What’s that got to do with Tech?

Believe it or not, there is a feeling that the opinion makers of technology sometimes get it wrong. In fairness, a lot has to do with jealousy. But fairness is always a lot less fun than unfairness so here we go. Let’s assign roles for the technology crowd:

Think of Duke #1 as a Tech Pundarrati (played by, say..Michael Arrington, but you could cast Om Malik, RWW or any number of others) and Duke #2 as a rock-star Angel (starring maybe Ron Conway, Dave McClure, etc.). They bet the standard amount that by Duke #1 doing some on-line drooling about the New New Thing and Duke #2 investing a modest amount ($20K, $10K, $10…does it matter?) in some useless company, they can launch it into the techno-stratosphere. Not sure who the Dan Ackroyd character is, and if you’re wondering who the Jamie Lee Curtis character is, she doesn’t exist, at least not in any tech crowds I am in.

The object of the game is: Who would you cast as Billie Ray Valentine?

I’ll leave it to someone smarter than I to figure out how to run the game online but chime in in the comments if you want. Maybe it needs categories like the Academy Awards. I’m in the location business and I’ve heard a few nominations in that genre.

Looking Good Billie Ray!

Unrelated: The other game that would be interesting is to find the Kevin Bacon of Location. For another time.