Open any financial, business or economic magazine or newspaper section and you will be bombarded with interviews, news and speculations about the heady world of the tech startup. The Silicon Valley Hooded Hero has long replaced the ‘Serious Suit’ as the aspirational business pin-up of our time.
After all, he’s different.
He ‘gets’ people and what they really want. He is a true visionary, who can see a glorious future for us together, where there are no limits to the demands of technology and ‘connecting’ in ever more ‘engaging’ ways with brands to create ‘meaningful moments’ that are human in appearance but translate to big bucks on the bottom line! Don’t worry baby, this year will be ‘our year’, for sure. Or it’s all just around the corner at any rate, some stage…
You’d consider him just for his family alone (he doesn’t call them employees – that’s so corporate). Slouching awkwardly in bean bags or perching on industrial style stools in a brightly coloured open office that smells like fresh plywood and paint, they’re way cooler than you could ever even dream to be. They can have all the snacks, macha, holidays and ‘personal time’ they want… provided they really, really feel they have done everything the need to do this year and truly deserve it. They have so many fun beer-filled brainstorms and team building activities it’s no wonder they only ever leave the 80 hours in the office to commute two hours to their two grand rental for sleep! Basking in their glorious freedom from ‘the man’ they chuckle at the rest of us naive drones as we go about our pointless nine to fives, void of creative spark.
Yes, it’s hard not to fall for the romance of it all as a potential employee of ‘the startup guy’ but that is nothing in comparison to the hard fall of investors. They’ve been pinteresting the wedding dress and potential floral themes since they first casually started dating the likes of Facebook.
Oh how easily forgotten are past loves like Enron and Worldcom and the entire nervous breakdown that came after the heady times of the dot com bubble. A bubble that reached a whopping $45 billion in US venture capitol investment at its peak in the 90s.
Today the same investment is valued at about $73 billion.
Yes, seventy three billion dollars.
As another 90s reference, Carrie Bradshaw, said ‘I’m started to wonder...’
Perhaps it’s time to admit we are not getting as much from this relationship as we put in?
Sure, he promises the world every time, if we can only stick it out a little longer and invest a little more… but at some point we really have to admit to ourselves when it’s not going the way we dreamed during that initial energetic honeymoon period of elevator pitches and low overheads.
As more and more stories begin to emerge of startup cheats (sorry, ‘alternative truth sayers’) with the paltry excuse of ‘fake it til you make it’… are we all finally getting the five year itch?
KPMG’s latest quarterly report has noted a 30% slide in US first-time funds.
As lots of other influences outside investor control cause extreme uncertainty (read: Trump crisis, BREXIT crisis, middle-east crisis, housing crisis, pensions, climate, stability of the EU, not to mention the depreciating value of your tin of roses etc. etc.), perhaps the idea of chasing that one illusive tech unicorns is becoming less and less appealing?
I don’t know, I’m in no way an expert or even much of a speculative hobbiest. However, my own anecdotal observation from study investment mags and articles is that there is a bit of a shift emerging in the media coverage of Silicon Valley.
Could it be that the rose tint is finally starting to ware off?
Are we ready to assess cool startups by virtue of what we get out of the relationship than how much we’ve invested?
Are we ready to find out if they’re unicorns… or donkeys?
Perhaps it’s time to cool it a little, re-asses our own trend and (cough) endowment biases and hedge our bets by casually seeing other people… at least until he grows up a little?
Image from here.
Image from here.