San Francisco’s New (Old) Entrepreneurial Culture

I read Nathan Heller’s latest New Yorker piece, “Bay Watched,” with great interest:

Heller writes about the “new” entrepreneurial culture of San Francisco, incorporating interviews with friends like Ben Casnocha, Tyler Willis, Hunter Walk, and more.  Heller, who grew up in San Francisco, returns to his home town to examine the results of the recent tech boom:

“This braiding of tech-business growth with life-style values and aesthetics—and, from there, the world of art—creeps many people out. Creative enclaves are traditionally thought to arise at the quaky hands of aloof ironists; investment funds, we know, do not actually “stand for” anything except being good investment funds. Why, then, did Johnny Hwin speak so volubly about how his business interests, his life style, and his art helped one another? To him, it wasn’t a puzzle. He was into “creative, mindful living” in part because it helped his business interests. His business interests helped bring people together around underground art. In the process, influential art-and-business people were exposed to creative, mindful living.”

I’m conflicted about the piece, and not just because I was considered too old and suburban to be interviewed for it.

I’m excited by the fact that entrepreneurship is becoming more appealing.  If there’s anything this world almost always needs, it’s more entrepreneurs.

The description of the startup life, complete with Lyft cars and endless apps is cringe-inducingly “hip.”  It seems almost inevitable to me that pop culture will turn on us, much like it turned on the Brooklyn/Portland hipster.

I love the fact that entrepreneurs are starting to live holistic lives, rather than spending every waking money obsessed with making money.

Did Heller really have to use quotes like this?  “It’s much more a campaign-based model, where you’re going to crush it for a few years and then be absent for a while,” Bahat said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called a C.E.O., and it’s like, ‘I’m at a meditation retreat!’ or ‘I’m tied up for the next three months!’”

Side note: If I never hear someone say that they’re “crushing it” or “killing it,” again, I would be incredibly happy.

The funny thing is, all of this has happened before, and will likely happen again.  The startup frenzy and countercultural flavor have been part of the Silicon Valley story since the 1960s, though it has ebbed and flowed with the economic times.  Apple begat Netscape begat Google begat Facebook begat Instagram.  Heck, back in 1999, *I* was one of those cringe-inducing douchebags.

But that’s what worries me most.  Articles like this are the surest sign that the metaphorical cops are about to shut down the party.  Our government is getting ready to default on its debts, the President of the United States had to kowtow to Russia on foreign policy, and yet here in the Valley’s bubble, no one seems to notice.

What goes up, must come down.  I just hope that today’s “ballers” remember to act with humility and respect; people’s memories last longer than the business cycle.

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