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Scott Kinzie, vice president of marketing at Issuu, left, and Denise Twum, global customer support manager, work in their offices in downtown Palo Alto, Calif. on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

PALO ALTO -- It's a funny place to find optimism about Silicon Valley's long-term economic health, but there I was with Joe Hyrkin and Ruben Bjerg Hansen in their offices above an art supply store talking about the reasons a digital newsstand company from Denmark felt the need to expand into the valley.

This was a company -- named Issuu and pronounced like issue -- that had a pretty good thing going in Copenhagen: 6 years old, a website that hosts 15 million digital versions of magazines, books, catalogs and other documents uploaded by publishers looking for more exposure and the market analytics that Issuu provides for a fee.

It wasn't a startup searching for seed funding or a founding tech team, two ingredients that tend to pool here like rainwater on a neglected sidewalk. It was looking for something else -- relationships.

"We obviously want to grow for business purposes," says Hyrkin, a Silicon Valley veteran (Reverb, Flickr, Yahoo (YHOO), Trinity Ventures), who Issuu recently hired as its valley-based CEO. "We want to be in the best place to make that happen; and actually, one of the things about Silicon Valley is we have access here to companies and partnerships that otherwise were not available."


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Me? I'm thinking why not New York? That's the U.S. hotbed of publishers of dead-tree versions of books and magazines. And dead-tree magazine and book publishers are Issuu's paying customers. Why not try for access to companies and partnerships there?

"There is obviously a need for relationships with publishers," says Hansen, a visual designer who co-founded Issuu and has moved from Denmark to work with the Silicon Valley team. "The challenge is, we're more about the technology, about matching readers with content. We're sort of trying to do something new here, so the technology part is more important to us, the integration with Facebook and LinkedIn. That's how we're going to publish content online."

No doubt, social media is key to Issuu's strategy. True, Issuu's full stable of publications is available on its website. But the model also relies on readers posting Issuu links on social media sites, which exposes others to a publisher's content and to Issuu, too. It's telling, in fact, that the latest addition to Issuu's board is Bradley Horowitz, a Google (GOOG) vice president who's led Google's social efforts including Google Plus.

What Issuu has built has come to be known as a digital newsstand. There are other variations out there, each emphasizing particular features, including Magzter, Zinio, Flipboard and more. You could also count Apple's (AAPL) App Store, Google Play and the Kindle Store in the mix, which is to say it's a competitive and quickly evolving field.

Issuu brags about its vast library of somewhat obscure publications, including those created by individuals, that are offered free to consumers. You name a subject and you'll probably find some sort of publication covering it: photo, travel, design, food, fashion, gluten-free meals, model railroading, crochet -- practically any fetish anyone could have, including sexual fetishes. (There is a "safe" browsing mode for those who'd like to avoid that sort of thing.)

"We might have 15 million publications," Hansen says. "There is some weird stuff going on down there that I can't imagine. We have the weirdos and the fantastic photographers and everything in between."

Time will tell whether Issuu's breakneck growth rate in adding publications will keep up and if that will ultimately lead to long-term success. But what struck me about the company's move into Silicon Valley was what it says about the valley. This place now has the goods that many companies need, whether they're in publishing, retail, the auto industry, finance, education or health care. The valley has the brain power and the enterprises to provide the technology that has become a must-have for a long list of companies whether they make their money selling technology products or not.

I started thinking about all this when I stumbled upon @WalmartLabs, launched as an outpost of the Bentonville, Ark., behemoth in 2011 to work on ways to better tie mobile devices into the everyday experience of shopping. I thought about it more when I wrote about the growing number of car companies -- Ford, Nissan, Renault, Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and General Motors -- that have opened engineering operations in the valley to work on everything from building a better entertainment console to building a car that drives itself.

Mark Zawacki, of 650 Labs, has been watching non-tech multinational companies make their way to the valley for years. Zawacki advises companies on how to deal with the threat of disruptive technology and he says he has a database of about 200 multinationals that have opened offices or labs here in search of ideas, inventions, partners, customers and investment opportunities.

"Every week they're coming here from all over the world to kind of peer into the petri dish," he says of non-tech companies exploring Silicon Valley. He says visiting isn't enough and he suggests they establish an outpost.

Yes, there will always be bubbles, booms and busts. But the valley has built the core competencies that companies from all sorts of sectors need in order to shore up their technological underpinnings. As those companies move into the valley and expand their workforces, they diversify an economy that will always have technology at its heart, but which increasingly is playing a role in every aspect of commerce.

Not a bad lesson to learn in a jumble of offices above an art store in downtown Palo Alto.

Contact Mike Cassidy at mcassidy@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5536. Follow him at Twitter.com/mikecassidy.