From a profile on the New Yorker that I only just now had the ill-fated idea of reading:
Andreessen is tomorrow’s advance man, routinely laying out “what will happen in the next ten, twenty, thirty years,” as if he were glancing at his Google calendar. He views his acuity as a matter of careful observation and extrapolation, and often invokes William Gibson’s observation “The future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.” Jet packs have been around for half a century, but you still can’t buy them at Target. To smooth out such lumps in distribution, Andreessen disseminates his views via every available podcast and panel discussion and CNN interview slot: he’s a media soothsayer, Andreessen the Magnificent. He also tweets a hundred and ten times a day, inundating his three hundred and ten thousand followers with aphorisms and statistics and tweetstorm jeremiads. Andreessen says that he loves Twitter because “reporters are obsessed with it. It’s like a tube and I have loudspeakers installed in every reporting cubicle around the world.”
That is exactly why I do not enjoy social media at all anymore. Turn the amplification off. Enough with the loudspeakers. Enough with the Marc Andreessen kind of takes.
It’s fascinating how a single guy can embody everything that is wrong with startups and their funding system:
Such tests help a16z determine whether the founder is a mercenary who wants to sell the company within four years, which will cap a16z’s return at 5x, or a missionary, determined to change the world. “At the same time,” Andreessen said, “we’re not funding Mother Teresa. We’re funding imperial, will-to-power people who want to crush their competition. Companies can only have a big impact on the world if they get big.”
Un documentario di WIRED su Shenzhen, per questa domenica (merita, guardatelo).
We examine the unique manufacturing ecosystem that has emerged, gaining access to the world’s leading hardware-prototyping culture whilst challenging misconceptions from the west. The film looks at how the evolution of “Shanzhai” – or copycat manufacturing – has transformed traditional models of business, distribution and innovation, and asks what the rest of the world can learn from this so-called “Silicon Valley of hardware”.
“Silicon Valley,” now in its third season, is one of the funniest shows on television; it is also the first ambitious satire of any form to shed much light on the current socio-cultural moment in Northern California. The show derives its energy from two semi-contradictory attitudes: contempt for grandiose tech oligarchs and sympathy for the entrepreneurs struggling to unseat them. […]
“I’ve been told that, at some of the big companies, the P.R. departments have ordered their employees to stop saying ‘We’re making the world a better place,’ specifically because we have made fun of that phrase so mercilessly. So I guess, at the very least, we’re making the world a better place by making these people stop saying they’re making the world a better place.”
In the course of nearly two decades of closely following (and writing about) Silicon Valley, I have seen products and markets go through three distinct phases. The first is when there is a new idea, product, service, or technology dreamed up by a clever person or group of people. For a brief while, that idea becomes popular, which leads to the emergence of dozens of imitators, funded in part by the venture community. Most of these companies die. When the dust settles, there are one or two or three players left standing. Rarely do you end up with true competition.
Come Google e Facebook, Uber e altre startup solo in parte tecnologiche (food delivery) stanno sfruttando l’effetto di rete, e algoritmi e dati raccolti (più persone usano un servizio -> più altre sono spinte ad usarlo -> più il servizio è in grado di migliorarsi e distaccarsi dalla competizione viste la molte di dati collezionati), per rafforzare la loro posizione dominante sul mercato — creando dei monopoli in settori che prima non ne avevano.
David Heinmeier ha creato Ruby on Rails e fondato, più di dieci anni fa, Basecamp. Basecamp è un software per coordinare e collaborare su un progetto, recentemente completamente ridisegnato. Basecamp ha avuto negli anni un discreto successo, ma non ha mai disruptato nulla, né è mai diventato un unicorn ricevendo milioni su milioni da investitori.
E, scrive David, va bene così. Va bene fondare una startup senza nemmeno avere l’ambizione di possedere tutto — e purtroppo questa cosa va specificata perché il gergo degli investitori, e le loro aspirazioni, sembrano essere diventate le uniche possibili aspirazioni di qualsiasi startup dei giorni nostri.
In un recente post David Heinmeier racconta come la narrazione della Silicon Valley stia rovinando l’ambiente delle startup, presentandosi come l’unica possibile via di successo:
It didn’t disrupt anything. It didn’t add any new members to the three-comma club. It was never a unicorn. Even worse: There are still, after all these years, less than fifty people working at Basecamp. We don’t even have a San Francisco satellite office!
I know what you’re thinking, right? BOOOORING. Why am I even listening to this guy? Isn’t this supposed to be a conference for the winners of game startup? Like people who’ve either already taken hundreds of million in venture capital or at least are aspiring to? Who the hell in their right mind would waste more than a decade toiling away at a company that doesn’t even have a pretense of an ambition for Eating The World™.
Well, the reason I’m here is to remind you that maybe, just maybe, you too have a nagging, gagging sense that the current atmosphere of disrupt-o-mania isn’t the only air a startup can breathe. That perhaps this zeal for disruption is not only crowding out other motives for doing a startup, but also can be downright poisonous for everyone here and the rest of the world.