2016 was not an easy year. It was one in which emotions ran high – to put it mildly. This considered, we decided to pay homage to some of those emotions and one thing is certain: it was definitely a vintage year for whines. While there might be a preponderance of Silicon Valley people, places and companies on the list, remember – California is known for its whines. Without further ado and in no particular order:
Elizabeth Holmes/Tim Draper: It was decidedly not a good year for tech’s first female unicorn, whose fortunes went from $4+ billion to zero. The company also left a trail of unhappy investors, but not Tim Draper, who whined about the unfair press that brought the company down. “Instead of those negative reports, he argued in ArsTechnica, people should focus on what Theranos is doing for consumers. They “love” the company, he added, despite the fact that thousands of consumers have had their blood test results—results that may have led to incorrect treatments—corrected or voided. And several consumers have filed lawsuits seeking class-action status against Theranos.” We know that Holmes idolizes Steve Jobs – who is also gone, but not forgotten.
Jack Dorsey: the CEO of Twitter and Square had a mixed year. Square is doing well, from all reports, but Twitter – not so much, with the stock price pretty much in la toilette and not a buyer in sight. One of the Golden Boys of Silicon Valley lost nearly 20% of his net worth recently, with his Twitter stock tanking, but as we always say, just because you can start a company, doesn’t necessarily mean that you can run one. Or two, at the same time, for that matter. For those unhappy shareholders who believed that wunderkind Dorsey was the exception, well, it might be just that you don’t know Jack.
Mike Rothenberg, nee Rothenberg Ventures. The fund has been renamed Frontier Tech Ventures, as Rothenberg is a name some investors would like to forget, due to the bad associations, including “facing a proposed class-action lawsuit launched by one former employee who says the firm systematically failed to pay employees in back wages. A separate lawsuit alleges Rothenberg owes one former employee at least $109,000 for credit card charges made on behalf of the firm,” according to Techcrunch. The fund, under Rothenberg, was famous for its lavish parties, what to speak of a VR side venture that was consuming much of Rothenberg’s time. “Mike Rothenberg’s VC firm was young, splashy, cutting-edge and loaded with investor cash,” wrote Backchannel. There are those times and instances when proper structure – and adult supervision – are required. And warning to potential investors/LPs out there: before you throw money at a high-flying young fund, you might want to first consider offering a reality check.
Parker Conrad: the co-founder and former CEO of Zenefits, is one of those unicorns that flew too close to the sun, according to Forbes, (and who dropped off the publication’s 2016 America’s Richest Entrepreneurs Under 40 List) but that’s what happens when you’re out to disrupt human resources and decide to disrupt ethics regulations as well. Insurance is a highly regulated industry, and the frat house culture at the company didn’t help much. Boozing and sex have their place, but in the company stairwells? Not so much. It also seems that in that quest for hockey stick growth, the company overlooked a few things, like employing properly licensed insurance brokers. For the record, Conrad resigned, and Zenefits’ $4.5 billion valuation was cut in half. Ah, youth! And inexperience…
Peter Thiel: Silicon Valley was in a rage when one of its own – Peter Thiel, no less – came out for Donald Trump, and then spoke at the Republican National Convention in Ohio. Silicon Valley enjoys wearing diversity as a badge, and while Peter Thiel happens to be both gay and an immigrant, he was clearly cheering for the wrong team, politically, and we know the Valley: hegemony uber alles. How little it takes for Silicon Valley support to – going there! – peter out.
California’s threat to secede from the US: Says recode, “Calls for California to secede from the U.S. — fyi, we’ll need a lot more firepower than what comes from servers to do that — come only because figuring out what’s next is really hard. Title of the article: Hell is Silicon Valley people who won’t grow up. “It all reminds me of the vision that tech continues to reflect about itself as a place of fresh ideas and newness at all times. To my mind… Silicon Valley is still a place of big minds chasing small ideas,” writes @KaraSwisher, who invokes Peter Pan, then adds, “Personally, I think there is a far more sinister comparison to another fairy tale, that of Pinocchio’s transformation into a jackass on Pleasure Island. It’s a place where boys are indulged with endless fun until it becomes clear that there is actually a price for all that indulgence.” And speaking of Peter Pan, time to stop whining and, as Swisher suggests, grow up.
Nick Denton/Gawker: Peter Thiel’s secret attack on Gawker is even worse than his support for Donald Trump, said Pando, who felt that Thiel should have been more forthcoming. To refresh your memory, Thiel was outed as the money backing the Hulk Hogan lawsuit against Gawker, who previously had outed Thiel for his sexual preferences. Denton was broadsided – but so was Thiel, so stop your whining. Maybe it was simply that Thiel felt that turnabout was fair play.
Facebook: The EU is charging Facebook for misleading it over the WhatsApp deal. Advertisers – and regulators – are also looking into the companies fake click rates and overstated numbers on video views. And then there’s the so-called fake news issue and the platform’s censorship of conservative journalists. Facebook misleading people. advertisers, regulators, et al? Who’d have thought and in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s pretty much part of the company’s DNA.
Cher: Due to a certain event that transpired in November, Cher threatened to leave the planet. While Col. John Glenn, David Bowie, Prince, Florence Henderson, Alan Rickman, Mohammed Ali, Arnold Palmer, Geroge Michael, Leonard Cohen and Alan Thicke no longer walk among us, as of this writing, Cher is still very much firmly rooted on planet Earth, although ‘firmly rooted’ may be a bit of an exaggeration.
But that was then and this is now. Wishing you all a wonderful year ahead, as we go all onward and forward into 2017.