I’ve resisted watching HBO’s Silicon Valley for years. Another cynic’s view of what Silly Valley has become in the latest bubble seemed too depressing to watch. And make no mistake, we are in a bubble. Not just private equity — ideology too.
Having gone through the dot-com bubble, way too up close and personal when it inevitably burst, I thought it might be tough to stomach.
Turns out I was right.
Actually watched an episode the other night. It was awful. Not the show, mind you. The characters, the script, the plot were all well done. Too well done, I’m afraid.
It was the threads of truth that were awful. The idealized, mechanized, institutionalized, popularized, dehumanized monster that tech entrepreneurship has become. It really is depressing.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Roger McNamee.
A VC who made $1 billion backing Facebook and others, McNamee suddenly woke up woke one day — you know, the white man’s guilt that’s all the rage around here — and appealed to Mark Zuckerberg to change his evil ways. When Zuck rightfully ignored him, McNamee wrote a book (Zucked) and went on a PR rant denouncing the monster he helped create.
And McNamee has the cajones to shamelessly push his progressive nonsense on — wait for it — his Facebook page. You just can’t make this stuff up.
That’s not where I’m coming from. Jeez no. I’ve written plenty about Silicon Valley’s giants over the years. The good and the bad. I like to think I’m objective about what goes on around here. At least I try to be.
What makes me sad these days is the startups and VCs backing them. They’ve become bureaucratic. Boring. Almost pompous. Too much money chasing too few categories. The unicorn culture.
Softbank chairman Masayoshi Son’s gazillion dollar Vision Fund recklessly throwing billions at the likes of WeWork and Uber certainly hasn’t helped, but that’s another matter for another day.
Desperately seeking differentiation, every company ends up looking and, more importantly, behaving more or less the same. Same goes for the VCs.
Not to be hyperbolic, but I’m afraid that Silicon Valley is losing its soul. Or maybe it already has. I’m not really sure. All I know is, every startup and investor is starting to act like a wind-up digital toy made in a factory backed by Saudi oil money.
To be continued …