Surprised this wasn’t posted yet: a very astute glimpse at the soullessness of peak-bubble life.
This is well-written, and I don’t say that often.
We’re not hitting our KPIs, we’re not serious about the OKRs.
See, this is what’s hilarious. Back in the old days, people joined startups to get away from that garbage. That’s why people left shitty jobs at East Coast firms to live in what was then the middle of nowhere and work on technology.
These days, startups aren’t innovative companies that resist bureaucratic backfill but eventually succumb to it once achieving major success (at which point, the early employees are financially made). Instead, they’re racing to become the uninspiring corporate behemoths that a previous generation founded startups to escape. Just as the Tea Party was Republican reinvention dressed up as populist tax revolt, this “startup” nonsense is a corporate reinvention (doing away with 401k matching, basic maturity, and even the slightest pretense of investing in employees) dressed up to look like something that might have existed 30 years ago in Northern California.
I don’t want to romanticize the “old” Silicon Valley. It was a different kind of painful. It had no prestige and most people never made any money in that one, either. Companies were a lot smaller and more understaffed, and you had to appeal to the market (rather than investors) quickly or you would die. The difference, I think, is that there was more of an ethical reciprocity. In the old Valley, you were a small group of people working punishing hours who’d live or die as a group, so people watched out for each other, and the pay-it-forward culture existed (and was needed, because it was a wilder and more brutal life). In the new one, the founders are already “made” (investors will support their careers even if they fail, because they’re in “the right” social class and, if you’re an employee, then you clearly aren’t) and you’re just applying to be part of this thing they’re stapling together that already has 100 people and doesn’t need you.
Furthermore, “OKRs” need to die in a taint fire. If upper management wants to know what my goals are, we will have a sit-down conversation and I will tell them, but one-sided transparency is for losers so I’m not putting anything in writing until I know what they actually want to know and why they want to know.
We talk about our IPO like it’s the deus ex machina coming down from on high to save us — like it’s an inevitability, like our stock options will lift us out of our existential dread, away from the collective anxiety that ebbs and flows.
Ah, this. I find it hilarious (a) how stupid techies think the investing public is and (b) how wrong they are. Unicorn valuations are ridiculous. There’s a bubble there. In the public markets? Much less so. Wall Street is putting some rationality back into the system, when these stocks drop by 85% after one year. Investors aren’t stupid. (They’re still overvaluing these companies, but that’s because there’s an epidemic of fraud. Not getting into that one, though.)
Since 2001, the “greater fool” has been the young people who work for these startups, often fucking up their careers by doing so (raises hand), and not the investing public… because it’s still going to be another 20 or 30 years before people forget the last bubble and anything as ridiculous as 1999 can be pulled off again. Once people in startups figure out that they, the startup workers who can at least be put to work doing something, are the source of the company’s value… it’ll make things tougher for the founders. Imagine what we could do if we had the organizational skills to work as a collective.
Ultimately, the major value of a startup these days is that a large number of people were organized around something. It might be a crappy business that the acquirer will kill immediately, but it’s perceived as hard (and, without resources, it is) to get 100+ people together to do anything and so a company is presumed “worth” $250M just because it has 100 college-educated people who come together in the same building for 8-10 hours per day. Because this recurring pattern itself is rather hard to generate, “someone” will buy it.
If these realized that it was their own productive potential and not these dipshit tech products that was the source of the companies' value, they could organize and get more of the value for themselves. Of course, part of the purpose of Silicon Valley is to prevent unions from happening via the device of the disposable company.
We even care about the executives who can make us feel like shit.
This I don’t understand. I get it, in the context of a first or second corporate job, but here’s the thing: I don’t care about people who don’t earn it. Why should I give the square root of a fuck about of someone who’d fire me in an instant if he thought it would advance his career?
I would love to work at a company where I genuinely respect, admire, and even like the people at the top, and where I know that they’re looking out for me. And then I would go far beyond the call of duty. The thing is: that doesn’t really exist anymore. Millennials aren’t “entitled”. We’re the first post-apocalyptic generation. We grew up in an age of widespread organizational decline.
We were lucky and in thrall and now we are bureaucrats, punching at our computers, making other people — some kids — unfathomably rich.
What amazes me is that people recognize the youth of the founder class but no one is willing to call out their complete lack of qualifications. I’ve met enough of those people to know that most of them are fucking idiots. It’s not that they’re young that is the problem (although it’s rare, some 25-year-olds actually are mature enough to run businesses) but that they’re so remarkably unqualified. Also, the idea that anyone who’s smart enough to come up with a good idea can become a founder is ridiculous. If you’re not born into that set of people, it’s never going to happen. The sooner our generation realizes how rigged the game is, the better.
People need to demand to be paid what they are worth, and collectively share salaries. We all need to stop giving so much power to children with the money to found a company. Startups shouldn’t have foos ball tables and beer on tap, they should give more money to their employees to take home and use.
But if you take your money home, you may not spend it on the appropriate work life balance. By keeping the fun in the office, we can ensure everybody is getting the right amount. Turn that frown upside down!
Startups shouldn’t have foos ball tables and beer on tap
I’m not sure I’d be that forceful, but certainly foosball/table
tennis/air hockey tables is a massive red flag for me.
Game rooms have been explained to me by an executive as similar to the “general chat” mailing list or chat room that most companies have: they’re a way for “low performers” to identify themselves.
I put “low performer” in quotes because the people who have high engagement in the diversions may or may not be actual low performers. From an executive standpoint, it doesn’t matter. When people need to be thrown overboard to take weight off a sinking ship, the one who (unknowingly) identified himself by becoming “that guy who’s always in the game room” (even if he works 14 hours per day) is going to be the first one tossed.
We all need to stop giving so much power to children with the money to found a company.
I’m of mixed feelings about this. I don’t like immature founders either, but regarding “children”, one of the distressing things about becoming an adult is realizing that there are no adults. There’s no one to dress down the bullies or spot talent in unlikely places. It’s terrifying, and this realization (that there are no adults) might be why people fall to charismatic religion (which promises that there are accessible adults).
People need to demand to be paid what they are worth, and collectively share salaries.
On that, I agree. It’s tricky, though. I don’t think that people are loathe to share compensation only because it’s impolite or even because it puts them at risk of being (illegally) fired for it. I think that it’s also that it makes it hard to change your story if your personal numbers get out there.
We need to do something collective (possibly not a traditional labor union) in order to make the flow of information fair, though. Right now, employers have all the information (and the ability to manipulate it, giving them control over employer and employee reputations) and employees have nothing. I think the Hollywood model is what’s likely to serve us best: a lightweight guild system, and agents for individuals.
This is a good piece of writing.
tl;dr I am confused. He’s cute.
I suppose one thing we can all agree on is, open spaces suck.
Uhh.. All that I could read in the article was essentially just the author’s hollowness, superficiality, self-esteem issues, sexual preferences and confusion. It’s a good piece of writing as far as it matches the hollowness of the valley.
anyone else receiving a PHP source file instead of the rendered page when accessing this link?
They apparently had some server issues because this story was unexpectedly popular? A couple people mentioned issues. There’s the cached link at the top if it doesn’t come back to life.
I started reading this, and it is well written and darkly funny. I only managed to get about one third in before I had to stop though, as I couldn’t stomach the existential despair any longer.
Good read. Reminds me of Disrupted, but with less wanton snark and more earnestness. That’s a good thing, I think.
I’ll be a very happy human being if I never have to see the term “OKR” ever again. I always thought those were exercises in futility, trying to predict what fuzzy ‘results’ I wanted to get done in the next three months when the actual ‘key result’ was shipping whatever project management decided to approve two weeks after I made up my OKR.
Fucking preach it. God I hate these things. What a pointless waste of time.