Coders Can Be Assholes

This is an excerpt from my new book, Chronicle of a Startup Town: Los Angeles.  It’s available now for pre-order on Amazon in a Kindle edition.

Coders can be assholes, as Vikram Chandra memorably wrote in Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, The Code of Beauty, and certainly with more eloquence that I might muster here.  Being the smartest kid in the room can turn you snarly. We’ve seen it with the young Bill Gates, certainly with the world’s most snarly vegan, Steve Jobs, who actually was not much of a coder, but pretty brilliant anyway.

Mark Zuckerberg seems to require legions of publicists to tone down his hubris. Travis Kalanick has done much to establish Uber as the world’s most irritating startup, and has hired a master spinmeister, David Plouffe, to sort it out.  I can see Plouffe’s fine hand in this pure genius move: Allying  the company known for enabling prostitution – Uber  even acquired the nickname Boober – with UN Women, a worthy organization that needed Uber’s money. A move like that makes me think …

Read More

Apple and Microsoft Changing Places? Depend on That

There’s a company that is investing in disruptive innovation, looking for the spark of new ideas in new markets.

There’s a company that is looking to consolidate its gains, under great pressure to maintain what it has accomplished. Its future may be dull, dogged by small design iterations.

I’m describing Microsoft in the first paragraph, and Apple in the second, but not long ago, I could have said the exact opposite. Apple and Microsoft have changed places. Life is weird.

Time is corrosive. Brands are like people. History draws its map upon your face. Brands get old, some die. What caught on, fired up, jumped the track today might not work in the future. You can depend on that.

It’s crazy, but when running a startup, you’re going to do your best to express what you are all about in your culture.  You will deploy that culture to the world, but you don’t know how the world will choose to receive it. Will people rise like a river and float your fiscal boat? Or will they never arrive and you’ll be beached?

Even the best …

Read More