Liz Claman’s outsider view of Silicon Valley

Every year, Fox Business Network anchor Liz Claman (top, right) parachutes into Silicon Valley and does a whirlwind three days of interviews with chief executives at the biggest Silicon Valley companies. This year, she interviewed everyone from Intel’s Paul Otellini to Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz (top left) for her show 3 Days in the Valley. We caught up with her to get a view of Silicon Valley, from the outside looking in. Here’s some thoughts she had on her interviews.

VB: What did you learn?

LC: Each time there is a different feel. This year it is split. The bigger companies are a bit grim about the economy situation. The teeny ones are just like startups. They are super-optimistic, super excited. They can only think about the next step up and don’t care what’s going on with the economy. We got a real cross-section of what is really going on in the country with a Silicon Valley flavor, which means great optimism.

VB: Compared to past years?

LC: It’s a little bit different. Last year, there was some uncertainty. This year, the Intel and Applied Materials of the world are uncertain. Smaller companies like Juniper Networks are hiring. So are the solar companies. I find it to be very industry-specific. It’s a different mosaic this year.

VB: Who had the big news?

LC: Paul Otellini of Intel talked about building or retrofitting factories in Arizona and Oregon (and spending up to $8 billion). That will create about 9,000 jobs here in America. That was major news. Otellini said they wouldn’t do that if it wasn’t good business. They do three quarters of their business outside of this country. You don’t see investments on this scale so often. Carol Bartz of Yahoo said she isn’t going anywhere. In response to my question about how analysts say your grace period is ending, she said, “I’m no wimp. I’m staying.”

VB: John Riccitiello (pictured with Clayman in photo on right) said Electronic Arts made more than $100 million on Medal of Honor in your interview.

LC: That was interesting. He pointed out that the popular movie The Social Network has taken weeks to and it still hasn’t gotten to $100 million and his game got there in five days. He was also excited about this push for virtual goods. There’s money to be made selling things that don’t exist and getting people to pay for them. We talked to Outspark’s Susan Choe and Zynga, and their business is built on that. John Riccitiello is one of the big guys, and his company is malleable enough to move quickly from shoot-em-up games to casual games.

VB: For EA, the $100 million number may be disappointing.

LC: There are critics of EA who weren’t jumping up and down over it. He threw out the $100 million number. It used to be 1 million units was a hit. Now it’s 5 million. FIFA Soccer is huge for them. That’s a global game. I find the EA story fascinating to watch as it develops.

VB: What was interesting behind the scenes?

LC: John Donahoe, CEO of eBay, came out and said something surprising. He told me PayPal will become bigger than eBay. PayPal is of course a division of eBay. Scott Thompson, the head of PayPal, came up and I told him that. He said he needed eBay to be bigger than PayPal. It was interesting to see the back-and-forth between those two. On our last interview with Juniper, four F16s blew over us. I think they were going to the Giants game.

VB: Are you coming back next year?

LC: Every year. I don’t think it’s a hard sell. We cover things differently. It’s nice to get in on the ground floor with the Silicon Valley companies.

VB: Are you going to get Steve Jobs?

LC: Never say never. But he has never said yes to me. Fox Business has one of the most popular free downloadable apps on the iPhone.