Guys, let’s try to not be dicks.
What do Roman emperors, rock stars and most people who ‘‘made it’’ in the start-up scene (and even some who didn't) have in common?
As you might have guessed judging by the title, the answer is that most of them turned into utter cunts at some point in their lives. You know how people say money/power corrupts? I’d like to argue its actually status that turns friendly men and women into the douchebags we love to hate. Today I’d like to talk about the rise of dicks (no pun intended) caused by the social dynamics that surround the global start-up scene in the last couple of years.
Which social dynamics?
You know how every era has its own group of people, its own sub-culture led by a select few if you will, that are collectively perceived as ‘‘cool’’? In the average high school it’s the jocks, a couple of decades ago the rockstars were the ones melting the hearts of teenage girls and more recently being a rapper meant you were somehow more than a just a human being. Nowadays, starting since around the premiere of ‘‘The social network’’ in 2010, it’s the start-up kids that enjoy a shift in perception from weird outsiders to superstars. Like many groups of people who for whatever reason made it to becoming idols, entrepreneurs are following their predecessors into the way of the dick.
What type of douchebaggeristics are you talking about?
Unlike Roman emperors and more like high school jocks, the average founder isn't pure evil but rather generally not really a nice person. There’s something about having a (successful) business that gives mere humans the feeling of being some kind of übermensch. The arrogance that fills the room in a pitching event, the slimy smugness that drips from condescending faces in a network meeting, the constant need to assert dominance over others that comes with the title of ‘‘CEO & founder of *insert name of cool start-up here*’’ has always accompanied the identity of an entrepreneur I think but lately has become more widespread and rampant as starting your own business is easier than ever. Being part of a cool little digital creative agency and awesome start-up in Holland, I've seen so many ‘‘normal people’’ go through the werewolf-esque transformation into smug ‘‘industry disruptor’’ or ‘‘innovation visionary’’. I gave my first workshop in the lean startup method in a highschool last week for a group of students there that follow a special ‘‘aspiring entrepreneur’’ study program and even in them I could see the way they look down on the other students who aren’t part of that exclusive study stream.
So what’s your point Ami?
As we stand at the beginning of an era where entrepreneurs and everybody involved in the start-up scene are becoming the new role models I feel we can be the exception to the rule and be cool, looked up to and enjoy the fame + fortune while at the same time not being self satisfied cunts about it.
Roman generals that achieved great victory were paraded down the streets in ancient Rome on four horsed chariots to be applauded by the masses for their triumphs. On the chariot behind them they would have a companion or slave that held a golden crown of laurel above the head of the victor while whispering in his ear ‘‘Look behind you, you are but a man’’ to remind him of his faulty, human nature. Allow me to be your insignificant companion on your chariot and deliver you the 21st century version of that message: let’s try not to be dicks guys.