Our high-tech businesses need to employ critics (or philosophers) as well as entrepreneurs. Many decades ago, these critics would have been senior people who rose through the ranks from their first job in the mail room. They reviewed proposals from bright-eyed younger staff and suggested changes that were necessary in the real world. The modern silicon valley startup doesn’t include grey-haired people with rich lived experiences. They sometimes include board members with grey hair, but they are usually very rich, and have spent much of their lives in the VC world.
On more than one occasion I have had discussions with millennials working on new messaging apps who had never considered that workers in a globally distributed firm aren’t awake at the same time and can’t have real-time conversations. They take vacations at different times too, and longer ones than workers in a startup. A basic understanding of how the world works needs a workforce diverse in age, culture and geography. Startups in a single office in one of the aforementioned cities can’t begin to solve problems that involve distributed teams across the globe.
Heck, they’re surprised when they first see a non-US keyboard layout that doesn’t include a # symbol. They don’t understand the metric system that the rest of the world uses, including paper sizes. If they didn’t learn COBOL, the probably don’t appreciate DECIMAL POINT IS COMMA in number representations.
Is there room in startups for people who don’t produce code, but can teach people how the world works?