Ever since I was a teenager, I've wanted to work in technology. In 1997 after training to get an MCSE, I finally realized that dream, working at Intermedia Communications in their NOC. Since then, I spent more than a decade in the healthcare IT space, learned to be a developer, built a couple of failing startups, finally exited one, and am now working on startups in the crypto space. Along the way, I learned the importance of community building, and benefited from figuring out how to gain visibility online.
Social media had a lot to do with that.
Over the last decade, however, I've seen two things:
- Startups leaving my area to go to Silicon Valley to raise money or grow (Hell, Wikipedia was here for eight years before heading to the valley in 2008).
- Technology (and STEM in general) being judged by the bad behavior of a small group of privileged white males mostly located in Silicon Valley.
I've watched quality development teams leave year after year seeking the money and connections that come from being in Silicon Valley, and then watched them get sucked into the toxic culture there. And as go the founders, so goes the product.
So it comes as absolutely no surprise to me to watch monster startup after monster startup get called out for bad behavior, toxic cultures, and products which don't do much to foster a truly universal conversation not run by trolls or spammers, given that they're all based there.
Dan McComas recently said:
"I fundamentally believe that my time at Reddit made the world a worse place. And that sucks, and it sucks to have to say that about myself."
He founded RedditGifts, one of the most positive communities on the internet, and it only went downhill after being acquired by Reddit proper. The move to the Valley changed everything. He also said:
"I don’t think the existing platforms are going to change. I do believe that new platforms could be started up, could operate better, could be more mindful, and could create better infrastructure and platforms for the large public. But in order to do that, I think that one of two things needs to happen. I think that the venture capitalists need to kind of reframe their thinking on how these companies look as they start up and grow. I know firsthand that at least the investors that I worked with at Imzy are not ready to undertake that path. Imzy shut down, we still had $8 million in the bank, and we had raised $11 million. I know firsthand the palate of these investors, and from my experience, the majority of Silicon Valley investors are all the same archetype. I think that somebody needs to come along and change their thinking on that. I don’t think that that’s going to happen."
Imzy fundamentally was a community based on trying to solve some of the problems of social, with tight moderation, and a strong community stance against bullying and hate speech, run by someone who cared deeply about those topics after seeing the cesspool Reddit had become.
The problem is not social. The problem is Silicon Valley, and its privileged insular group of high dollar investors who fundamentally decide what lives and dies, and whose metrics have nothing to do with fostering a better conversation, and everything to do with growth at all costs.
I'm tired of having technology companies on this coast be smeared by the bad behavior of overgrown frat boys on that coast. I'm tired of five venture funds fundamentally shaping the future of technology in this country. I'm tired of bright eyed youngsters with good intentions getting ground up by the machine that is the Valley. And I'm tired of Valley culture shaping what are supposed to be global platforms.
I have zero brand allegiance. I'm happy to move my entire online presence to this platform if it really solves the problems at large. But if this platform is also funded and based in Silicon Valley, I have zero hope of that actually being the case.