I’ve just about given up on listening to anything said by Silicon Valley millionaires.
It’s not that I don’t want the same things they want. I want robot cars! I want cheap solar energy! I want a robot that will clean my whole house and empty the cat’s litter box!
But the tech industry has an increasing tendency to create hugely successful corporations that dump their problems on other people.
Air BnB was a way to rent out your spare room and make a few bucks… which is now letting people create secret, unregulated hotels that drive up real estate prices.
Uber would revolutionize transport! But it treats its employees like disposable wet wipes and resists any form of regulation to make it safer.
Tesla is the car of the future! Whoops, one of them slammed into a truck on robot mode and killed the driver.
I think part of the problem is the issue of failure. They haven’t experienced any.
Sure, some of them have seen companies go under. But they bounce back immediately, peddling a new app, a new social media platform, a new sharing economy widget within weeks. They don’t see failure as failure. They crow about their failures as learning experiences and opportunities for growth.
Their failures don’t fill them with fear, or pain, or a sense of regret.
Look into the background of most tech industry titans, and what you find is pretty boring. Most are from upper middle class families. They never really grew up with that gnawing fear that if they made the wrong choice, things might go badly wrong.
Failure is necessary. Too much fear of failure can paralyze, but no fear of failure… well, it leads to financial meltdowns and insane over-exuberance.
Yet tech millionaires are now telling governments how to act, suggesting that Silicon Valley can solve problems like (I swear I am not making these up) “cities” and “food” and “jobs.”
When I get advice, I’ll take it from someone who’s had to choose, at least once, between paying for the power, rent, or groceries. Someone who bought $2.37 cents of gas because that’s what was in their pocket. Someone who followed their dream and found out they just weren’t good enough.
Tech entrepreneurs are the rock stars of business. And just like rock stars, they owe as much to luck as to skill. It would help it they admitted that to themselves.