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Sunday
Jan052014

Techbrats Goldberg, Shih and Gopman Do Not Represent Technology

Image credit: PandoDaily.

In 20 or 30 years, what will we look back on and say “That was the issue of our time?"

I ask hyper-intelligent people this question from time to time, and the answers are frequently similar: environment, equality, employment and wage disparity are common.

I believe employment and wage disparity are the critical issues of our time.

Nowhere can this be seen more clearly and glaringly than in San Francisco. Rents in the city have skyrocketed and social unrest between the haves and have-nots has reached a boiling point. (Most recently, we saw protesters throwing a rock through the window of one of Google’s luxurious private buses.)

It’s hard for people not to hate technologists when faced with the absolute loathsomeness of three now-infamous industry executives: Peter Shih, Greg Gopman and Bryan Goldberg.

In three separate blog posts over the past year, these spoiled techbrats have shown the absolute worst qualities of the elite: a lack of empathy and class, combined with horrible entitlement -- and the absolute inability to write.

Peter Shih, a startup founder, wrote that San Francisco is a city with a “pathetic excuse for a public transportation system,” where 'I pay 80% of my salary to live down the street from crackheads and meth addicts" and which is home to “some of the craziest homeless people I have ever seen in my life” (his solution: “just hand them a handle of vodka and a pack of cigarettes, it'll save everyone some trouble.”)

Link: http://goo.gl/nT5yJC

His bile was followed by Gopman’s post which claimed:

“The difference [between SF and elsewhere] is in other cosmopolitan cities, the lower part of society keep to themselves. They sell small trinkets, beg coyly, stay quiet, and generally stay out of your way. They realize it's a privilege to be in the civilized part of town and view themselves as guests. And that's okay…

You can preach compassion, equality, and be the biggest lover in the world, but there is an area of town for degenerates and an area of town for the working class. There is nothing positive gained from having them so close to us. It's a burden and a liability having them so close to us. Believe me, if they added the smallest iota of value I'd consider thinking different…”

Link: http://goo.gl/kEHAcj

Not to be outdone, millionaire Goldberg -- the most successful of all these executives, having sold the widely-regarded-as-spam site Bleacher Report -- did a ‘satirical piece’ that showed a complete lack of awareness, intelligence or ability to compose satire. Salon dubbed it “rock bottom” in “tech’s culture war.”

Link: http://goo.gl/j18NDq

Where to begin.

First, all three of these executives should be thankful they were born in a time when the ability to write code and understand technology was so absurdly rewarded as compared to the other crucial work of the world. Important things like teaching children to be productive citizens, running into burning buildings, protecting citizens from crime, doing CPR on people in cardiac arrest, and going to war and risking having your legs blown off by an IED.

In another age, say one where the ability to use a sword was the most in demand skill, these specimens wouldn’t have had the resolve to make it out of adolescence alive.

Second, if you are lucky enough to be absurdly rewarded as compared to the rest of society, a solid default position is to shut up and enjoy your epic rewards -- not to taunt and abuse those less fortunate than yourself.

Third, if you have been delightfully rewarded for building websites -- websites!!! -- as opposed to digging ditches 10 hours a day, six days a week, perhaps you should look at those less fortunate than yourself with compassion and -- gasp! -- do something to help them?

Fourth, if your ability to write tops out at the Christmas card level, perhaps it would be wise for you to hone your skills before tackling the most sensitive and pressing issues of our time?

As my Tae Kwon Do teacher told me in me in my developing years, when I was prone to speak first and think second, “an empty can makes the most noise.”

These noisy individuals do not represent the technology industry within which I’ve built my career. No, the technologists of true success and merit develop and execute strategies to make society more just, fair and joyful for all.

Bill Gates gave up three or four delightful decades of working on building one of the great technology empires of all time to do things like eradicate malaria, provide clean drinking water and reinvent the condom so people would use them more often.

Mark Cuban dedicates his time to investing in startups that will never return even a small fraction of his wealth, while silently helping wounded soldiers and the poor (the details of which are largely unreported).

Elon Musk risked his entire fortune -- and pushed himself personally to the brink -- to get us off carbon and he’s still driving himself at an inhuman pace to “back up Earth” on another planet. (I’ve encouraged him to pace himself many times, but it’s just not how he is wired.)

Jeff Skoll has produced media -- at great loss and risk at times -- in order to expand people’s consciousness about important issues. Fast Food Nation, An Inconvenient Truth, Food Inc, Darfur Now, and his new TV network, Pivot, which aims to package up serious issues for millennials.

The list of technologists doing great things for humanity is endless, but the media is obsessing over these pathetic, visionless grandstanders-- and I don’t blame them. This level of stupidity and vileness is editorial manna from above. How could the media not focus in on it?

A society can best be judged by how the most privileged regard and treat the most vulnerable and weak.

I have a challenge for these three individuals: invest in HandUp, a wonderful startup trying to actually help the homeless and distraught individuals in San francisco (and eventually beyond, I’m sure). If you each invest $10,000 in Handup I will match each of you. (Note: I’m already an investor, having invested on the spot during my talk with Rose: http://youtu.be/h9PSGHg2Vl0).

more: http://angel.co/handup

[ Sidenote: It’s a B (as in ‘benefit)’ corporation similar to stuff like Tom’s Shoes or Ben & Jerry’s, which aims to build a sustainable business by making a platform to help organizations focused on the homeless and poor. It’s “kickstarter for the homeless” and I say that with pride, not as a joke. Note: any profit I make from this investment I will donate to the homeless. ]

It takes only a cursory amount of reading -- start with the mayor’s offices multiyear study on the cities ~6,000 homeless -- to understand that a large percentage of the homeless are suffering from depression, mental illness, substance abuse and/or the elimination of their jobs.

And keep in mind that the “disruption” that is so lauded in our industry is largely one that removes inefficiencies, frequently defined as a “humans” working in “jobs.”

I’d argue that society’s issues around job loss are largely attributable to the massive change brought on by the technology we are building, and the wealth we are creating for a small subset of society.

This fact is indisputable and I believe it puts the responsibility for the weakest in our society on us -- the technologists and investors -- who not by happenstance are benefiting from this change.

On a strictly pragmatic basis, if you’re rich and privileged in our violently changing society, ask yourself if the last couple of bitcoins or homes you own are worth having a brick thrown through the window of bus you’re riding on.

It is completely possible that in the next 10 years, the streets of San Francisco and Manhattan will be filled with riots and protests by disenfranchised individuals--oh wait, that was the last three years: http://youtu.be/8yXSC0U9M6c

What is the point of this ever expanding “long boom” if we leave so many behind?

What a shallow victory we will have wrought if so many suffer so greatly while we benefit so exorbitantly.

all the best, @jason

http://www.twitter.com/jason

PS - Sorry to have not written the followup piece to #googlewinseverything, but I felt that this piece needed to come now--before another ‘techbro’ decides the world needs to know how stupid and insensitive they are. Second, I’m on deadline for the Jan. 23rd launch of www.inside.com, as well as the LAUNCH Hackathon (Feb 21-23) & LAUNCH Festival on Feb. 24-26th (http://festival.launch.co).

PPS - If I get a moment I’ll follow up on this piece by expanding the final two points--or perhaps someone with the ability to write like @paulcarr, @lons, @jasonpontin, @karaswisher, @hblodget, etc. could take on these two concepts:

a) What responsibility does the Tech Industry specifically have to the people it has made redundant?

b) Wouldn’t it be a better world for everyone if we used just a small portion of the massive profits being made to ensure that everyone had a place to live and eat, so our cities weren’t overrun with poverty, hunger and desperation, making American cities like Los Angeles essentially Third World nations?

Click here to tweet this editorial: http://ctt.ec/e2Juq

Thursday
Jan022014

Wanted: LAUNCH Festival Operations Temp Assistant

We're looking for a self-motivated, detail-oriented individual to help with operations for our largest event, the LAUNCH Festival.

This is a temporary full-time position that will last through Friday, February 28. You will work with us in our office located at 6th & Market.

The LAUNCH Festival (San Francisco, February 24-26) is THE best place to launch a technology company and learn about building great startups. Dropbox, Mint, Yammer, Fitbit, Room77 and hundreds of others have debuted on the LAUNCH stage.

For more info on the event: http://festival.launch.co

Responsibilities:

  • Customer Service & Outreach (answering registrant emails, processing tickets) 
  • Coordinating & running a critical part of the conference (Hackathon, Startup Stage, Demo Pit, etc..)
  • Coordinating volunteers
  • Evaluating applicants to the Hackathon
  • Updating our website (Squarespace) & our event app (Bizzabo)
  • Additional ad-hoc projects 

 Requirements:

  • Bachelor's degree (or proof of high fluid intelligence)
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Impeccable organizational skills and attention to detail
  • Passion for tech startups and entrepreneurial culture
  • Desire to work in a team-based, entrepreneurial company
  • Practical knowledge of Excel, Google Spreadsheets, Numbers or similar. 
  • Experience in online publishing platforms and HTML experience a plus 

Compensation: $100 / day

We value diversity in the workplace and are an EOE/AA employer.

To apply please use this form: https://docs.google.com/a/launch.co/spreadsheet/viewform?usp=drive_web&formkey=dEw3RFdJSnc1cmlURkpObEJxSHJjV0E6MA#gid=0

Friday
Dec132013

A gift to the industry (be my guest at LAUNCH Festival) 

 

I’ve been hosting my Launch Festival for six years now, with the goal of making the most supportive and joyful startup event in the world for fellow founders.

We’ve had amazing startups launch, including Yammer, Powerset, Mint, Space Monkey, Dropbox, Docstoc, Brilliant.org, Boxbee, FitBit, RedBeacon, AdStage and Swipe.

In this, our seventh year, I’d like to offer a free pass to the event:

UPDATE: "Gift to the industry" tickets are sold out!

Passes can still be purchased here: http://launch.ticketleap.com/launch-festival-2014/dates

Details: http://festival.launch.co

 

Why?

---------------------------

When I started in the industry in my 20s, I didn’t have a pot to piss in and was a ‘little rough around the edges’ – I was so lucky to have folks like Esther Dyson, Kara Swisher, John Battelle, Tim O'Reilly and (most of all) John Brockman include me in their events.

These events led to me rubbing elbows with Evan Williams, Yossi Vardi, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, Ted Leonsis, Steve Case, Mark Cuban and countless other luminaries. Some of them became good friends and/or critical business contacts.

Now I’m trying to pay it forward for the 40+ startups that will launch onstage, the 150 that will be at demo tables, and the thousands of founders and technologists who maybe don’t have the budget yet to come to a world-class conference.

LAUNCH Festival is my legacy and I want as many folks to experience it as possible.

We had 6,000 people sign up last year and this year we hope to have 8,000 (stretch goal FTW!). This makes us the largest startup conference in the world – by far.


How are we able to do this?

---------------------------

First, we have premium tickets for sale that we upsell folks on. Second, we have the massive support of so many friends in the industry who sponsor the $1M+ budget of the event.  

Also, sometimes I lose money on the event.

We couldn’t do these sorts of crazy things without the support of our partners – whom I thank from the bottom of my heart:

* wsgr | SOMA (http://wsgr.com)

* Ludlow Ventures (http://ludlowventures.com)

* DFJ (http://dfj.com)

* MailChimp (http://mailchimp.com)

* Microsoft Ventures (http://microsoftventures.com)

* MicroVentures (http://microventures.com)

* Sequoia (http://sequoiacap.com)

* Yammer (http://yammer.com)

* Autodesk (http://autodesk.com)

* .CO (http://go.co)

* Expedia (http://expedia.com)

* Hotwire PR (http://hotwirepr.com)

* Instaradio (http://instaradio.com)

* Sourcebits (http://sourcebits.com)

* Ticketleap (http://ticketleap.com)

* Traklight (http://traklight.com)

* Zelkova Ventures (http://zelkovavc.com)

 

If you would like to add your name to the growing list of folks supporting the LAUNCH Festival, just email me at jason@launch.co.

We’re 35% of the way to budget, and with the support of the industry we’ll get there together.

It’s going to be an amazing week (three days for the Hackathon, three days for the Festival) - please join me.

 

Tuesday
Dec102013

Gift guide: Books for Techies & Founders

If you've ever checked out This Week in Startups, you know that LAUNCH Founder @jason is obsessed with audiobooks. 

A little bit business, a little bit pleasure, and a taste of the classics. Don't know what to give your cofounder or entrepreneur friend this year?

What about a subscription to Audible? You can try it out for free. Consider one of these for your first audiobook (use this link so they know we sent you! audible.com/twist).

 

1. Flourish by Martin Seligman

 

 

 

 

2. Wheat Belly by William Davis

 


 

 


3. Native Son by Richard Wright


 


4. Salinger by David Shields & Shane Salerno

 

 

 

5. The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal

 

 

 

 

6. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

 

 

 

7. Choose Yourself! by James Altucher

 

 

 

8. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

 

 

 


 

 

 9. The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin

 

 

 

 

 10. Emotional Equations by Chip Conley

 

Tuesday
Dec032013

Why I invested $250,000 in Swell

I thought you guys might be interested in hearing how I’m tackling the absurdly hard task of trying to pick winners as an angel investor. My goal in talking about my bets—uhhh, I mean investments—isn’t to promote myself or the startup, but rather get your insights into my process.

Also, writing is clarity of thought. If I set the benchmark that I’m going to write out my thinking on every investment I make, that should force me to think deeply about each one. Not that I don’t already do that, but there is something about the forcing function of writing that just works for me.

Swell is an App that my friend Josh from DFJ showed me at a poker game. When he handed me his phone and said ‘it’s Pandora for talk radio’ I got it immediately.

Get it - http://swell.am

Here are the signals that made write a check:

1. Trusted referral / respected early investors: my friend Josh showed me the product, and Google Ventures was also involved. I’ve got deep respect for Josh (early investor in Box), and for the GV team, which include my old friend Kevin Rose (who just did a fireside chat for the LAUNCH Hackathon: catch the podcast 12/10 - on Swell, too). I also have a bunch of other friends/people at those two firms including Tim Draper, Steve Jurvetson (who I had on the program recently http://youtu.be/O2tK0Wl2F8w), MG Siegler (who pisses off more people than me when he writes—always a good thing), Daniel Burka (who gave me solid advice on Inside.com design) and Joe Kraus (who I always respected deeply on a product level).

2. Clarity of mission and a singular focus: Swell is doing something very simple, but very hard, getting people to the best talk radio out there. This could be a TED talk, a public radio show or a podcast.

3. My Knowledge of the Space: I’ve been podcasting for two decades, since before it was called podcasting in fact. I did the Silicon Alley Reporter radio show on Pseudo back in the ‘90s, CalacanisCast in 2007, This Week in Tech, Gillmor Gang and then This Week in Startups (just past 400 episodes!). I’ve done at least 600+ podcasts as a host or guest. The biggest problem in podcasting is discovery, as in getting the right people to your podcast. Apple has done some fine work in this space, but the fact is only 5% of the potential audience for Leo Laporte’s This Week in Tech actually know about the show—and he’s been doing it for almost a decade!

4. Stunning design and UX: Swell uses ‘cards’ as their user experience and it works brilliantly. Imagine playing cards on your phone in a stack that you can swipe through quickly and that’s how Swell works. Similar to Tinder, the dating app, but very different than a feed like Twitter and Facebook, where you scroll up and down a bunch of tiles (which you could call ‘cards’ but I won't for reasons of clarity).

5. Audible Addiction: I’ve been addicted to talk via podcasting for years, but before that I was a huge fan of a tiny startup in NJ called Audible. They eventually got bought by Amazon, and I’ve been a Platinum Subscriber for years. That means I spend ~$200 a year for 20 titles a year. I do this because I travel and drive a lot, and I feel like that time is wasted. If I listen to audiobooks I feel like I’m getting smarter and more worldly, whether it’s something in business, pop culture or a biography. I find myself splitting my time between Audible’s awesome titles and Swell’s excellent curation now. In fact, Swell helped me discover a bunch of new programs I didn’t know existed.

6. Great founder. When I met the founder I could tell he was capable of building a big, lasting company immediately because his concerns were around two important people in his ecosystem: the listeners and the content producers. Too often Silicon Valley companies are obsessed with the former and not the latter. Having been through a lot of struggles with Google, both the Search Group and YouTube, where I felt they were not supportive enough of me as a content producer, I found this refreshing and on point. Right now YouTubers feel like YouTube doesn’t care about them as much as they care about their own growth. I believe this is what will limit YouTube’s and Google’s future. Netflix, Amazon, Yahoo and AOL might have a small fraction of the usage of YouTube, but they care more for their creators.

Over time I think YouTube’s position will erode as someone like Twitter, Amazon or Yahoo makes a bold move to support the YouTube creators on a much deeper level. Swell has that potential for podcasters and talk products. Having a founder who groks this made me feel like their heart was in the right place.

7. TuneIn and Stitcher: I’m big fans of these other startups in the space, but I wasn’t able to invest in them (too late!). So, being able to bet on a new entrant who I think has the edge in the curation and interface space was a welcome opportunity for me.

8. I think I can be of service to the team: One of my big roles as an angel investor is helping with branding, marketing, positioning and product design—at least that’s what my fellow founders tell me. In this case, my domain expertise in talk radio as a creator and metaconsumer should help me act as a great resource to the founder.

There is a long way to go for Swell, but I’m really excited to be an early supporter. I think it’s a potential unicorn.

LAUNCH Fund is ~$9m in size, is ~8% invested and has eight investments.

Q1: What do you think of Swell?
Q2: What do you think of my investing signals?
Q3: What’s your big idea for Swell?
Q4: If Swell was offered as an AngelList Syndicate investment would you consider it? (accredited investors only can signup here: https://angel.co/jason/syndicate)

best @jason

PS - LAUNCH Festival is in 80 days! Get a complimentary ‘builder’ ticket here http://launch.ticketleap.com/launch-festival-2014/dates, using the code LAUNCHTIME.  You can buy a conference pass, VIP pass or Super VIP (each has access to different events of note).

PPS - The LAUNCH Ticker is the easiest way to keep up with the technology industry. For $100 a year you can read the “daily briefing” my researchers create for me! It’s 12 hours of daily research in two short emails. Sign up here: http://launch.co/promembership

PPPS - In case you missed it we had Naval on This Week in Startups. It’s a fireside chat we did at the LAUNCH Hackathon (#2). http://launch.wistia.com/medias/8vs30ocul6

PPPPS - If you want to get updates on my podcast This Week in Startups sign up for the email here http://thisweekinstartups.com/email/  

PPPPS - Inside.com is in beta, signup here: www.inside.com

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