Arrogance Is Good: In Defense of Silicon Valley

Arrogance Is Good: In Defense of Silicon Valley

Good morning, All,

So, if you’re an innovator – and happen to live in Silicon Valley – arrogance is pretty much mandatory, according to this article: Arrogance Is Good: In Defense of Silicon Valley. Arrogance leads to innovation. (Insert Steve Jobs mention/‘Here’s to the crazy ones’ ad reference here.)

Back in the 80s there was a group of young actors dubbed the Brat Pack. They were famous, for a hot minute, but none had what you might call an exceptional career. They were mostly known for their partying and their heavy recreational drug use. And where are they now, indeed?

Since tech is the new Hollywood, we now have what we like to call the Backed Pack: those bright young things with the big ideas, who go out to Silicon Valley to change the world. Instead of backpacking in Europe after college and living off Mom and Dad, they’re living off some investor or other who wrote them a check. Hence the name. Net/net is the same: they’re living off someone else’s money. Even though some of them say they’re there to change the world rather than seek fame and fortune. Titstare, remember that one? And lest we forget, many of these so-called innovators whom BloombergBusinessweek feel deserve a pass for bad behavior, while they may turn their nose up at advertising-as-a-revenue-model, aren’t they collecting data instead? It’s changing the world, all right, but in a good way? Not so much.

Mike Edelhart spoke at our Breakfast with an Angel last week. He has been in the industry, on both coasts, since the early computer days – and still actively invests, but in what he calls the ‘social construct.’ Fascinating hearing what it was like in those nascent days of Silicon Valley, when Apple and Microsoft were just getting started, building products that people wanted to purchase. Their big focus, besides building their products: How were they going to meet girls? That certainly changed, after that ilk got the money and got the girls, lest we forget the wage fixing that was going on in the Valley, at least in the case of Apple. And Google. Et al. At the end of the day, siloing employees stifled innovation. But it didn’t stifle the so-called innovators’ arrogance.

It seems to us that we are in a bubble, but it’s not about the insane valuations this time: it’s a disconnect, seemingly between the more vocal element in Silicon Valley and the rest of the planet at large. One of the founders mentioned in the article said that he doesn’t hire people who, during their job interviews, don’t state that they’re interested in making the world a better place. Whatever happened to live and let live? Doesn’t that also help to make the world a better place?  But, hey, it’s his hegemony.

Meanwhile, closer to home in Silicon Valley, the Backed Pack are at least part of the element responsible for many of the social problems, and that’s been widely reported – driving the cost of living up and disenfranchising locals. Are they all building real, sustainable businesses? We do know that having a business model is not top of mind in the land of Nod, but isn’t revenue what business is about, almost by definition?

It seems to us that the Backed Pack is doing little more than abrogating responsibility. We talk a lot about how the VC model is broken. So is the entrepreneur model, truth be told.

Arrogance is not okay, as a lifestyle, and it’s not even tolerable in the name of innovation. Silicon Valley is certainly not peopled exclusively with unicorns.

Edelhart, who is also CEO of the Pivot conference, mentioned that he once posed the question that if Social (which is the Tech du jour) was a baseball game, which inning would it be? The panelists all agreed on the answer: batting practice. Makes sense: the Backed Pack certainly have a lot of balls. Onward and forward.

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