I’m Done Pretending Silicon Valley Tech Is Visionary
Marco Marandiz

This is tough. On the one hand, I want to thank you for coming into the light and sharing that. On the other hand — this is something that’s been the case for years, if not decades. Remember the first dot-com boom?

What real problems are real money going towards solving? That’s one question to ask. Another might be: what do the financial structures and rewards drive money towards? The funding infrastructure is designed to flood the market with “me-too”/”Uber for X” short-term plays, as VC models publicly work on “invest in 100, expect 97 to fail”, and the money comes back to investors when the 3% are sold, often into pieces, to large companies. That’s a big reason why we see the drive for “scaling”.

There are people doing great work on real problems. But the intersection of them and big money is virtually non-existant, though, because real problems are often messy, wicked (in the Kolko sense), and resist that magic scaling. Look to Open Oakland, Meeting of the Minds for city-level projects, OpenIDEO, Youth Radio, what Esra’a Al Shafei and her teams are doing to promote human rights in the Mideast — people all around you are researching real problems for real people. Heck, I’m working on timebanking. But I make barely enough to live on from it, because it doesn’t “scale” and VCs wouldn’t touch it.

That’s not to say you’re relegating yourself to poverty by working for good, and assured of wealth if you sell out. But you have to have the mission, and that’s harder work, finding the right people and convincing them that the slower road can pay off in many ways. Like with print journalism: most newspapers returned something like 35% annually — but then the metric became q-over-q growth (thanks, startup culture), that wasn’t enough, and a model or expectation was forced onto an industry that almost broke it.

So yes, glad to have you. Speak up, do good, point things out. But please understand if we’re a bit, well, “where have you been”?