I thought this was a wonderful anecdote, recounted by Anand Giridharadas on pg 77-78 of his Winners Take All. Edward Snowden was interviewed at Summit at Sea by the venture capitalist Chris Sacca who immediately looked straight past the politics of what his interviewee was saying once there was a fleeting mention of a startup emerging from it:
Perhaps in an effort to be courteous to his entrepreneurial audience, Snowden had tucked a mention of a start-up into his much grander vision of heresy, thereby destroying whatever chance he had for his ideas to be heard as they were intended. He had ensured that Sacca, and presumably many others, would now hear his revolutionary words and think only of investment.
“So I invest in founders for a living,” Sacca said, staring up at the giant screen. “And I gotta tell you, as I listen to you, I smell a founder here. You’re talking about these things that need to be built. Are you going to build any of them? Because there’s probably investors waiting for you here.”
Snowden seemed taken aback. Here he was talking about heresy and truth and freedom, and now he was being asked about a start-up. Flummoxed, he tried to let Sacca down politely: “I do have a number of projects that are actively in motion. But I take a little bit of a different view from a lot of people who need venture capital, who are trying to get investors. I don’t like to promote things. I don’t like to say I’m working on this particular system to solve this particular problem. I would rather simply do it, at the minimum expenditure of resources, and then be judged on the basis of results. If it works, if it expands, that’s wonderful. But ultimately, for me, I don’t tend to think that I’m going to be working in a commercial space. So I would rather say, ‘Let’s wait and see.’ ”
It was a kindly delivered rebuke to MarketWorld’s way of life. Here was a man who didn’t like to promote himself, who didn’t crave money, who was actually fighting the system, and willing to lose for the greater good to win.
From The Deep State, by Mike Lofgren, pg 255-256:
The quality of blind self-absorption is not confined to our national security elites. Many Wall Street and Valley billionaires, living a hermetically sealed existence surrounded by sycophants and coat holders, appear genuinely surprised that their public reputation is not that of heroic entrepreneurs selflessly creating jobs for employees and value for shareholders, but rather of greedy buccaneers who are not above exploiting labor and shortchanging investors or depositors.
Since these superrich elites are beyond reproach in their own minds, they interpret the criticism as victimization. When Obama suggested eliminating the “carried interest” loophole so that hedge fund managers would have to pay the same federal tax rates on their income that ordinary Americans pay, Stephen Schwarzman, the Blackstone Group CEO, said, “It’s war. It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.” 5 Pretty strong stuff, considering that Obama’s suggestion went nowhere, nor did he even push it very hard. Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tom Perkins continued with the Nazi trope, writing a letter to the Wall Street Journal to “call attention to the parallels to fascist Nazi Germany in its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich.’” 6 Oh, the humanity!
From Peter Thiel’s Less Than Zero loc 1662-1670. Does informality thrive in tech capitalism because entrepreneurs are terrified of pissing off VC’s who think like this?
At Founders Fund, we saw this coming. The most obvious clue was sartorial: cleantech executives were running around wearing suits and ties. This was a huge red flag, because real technologists wear T-shirts and jeans. So we instituted a blanket rule: pass on any company whose founders dressed up for pitch meetings. Maybe we still would have avoided these bad investments if we had taken the time to evaluate each company’s technology in detail. But the team insight—never invest in a tech CEO that wears a suit—got us to the truth a lot faster. The best sales is hidden. There’s nothing wrong with a CEO who can sell, but if he actually looks like a salesman, he’s probably bad at sales and worse at tech.