RECONSIDER

DHH has a sneering piece about why you can be content by just “making a dent in the universe” instead of joining the circus to become the next shiny startup unicorn.

In fact, it’s hard to carry on a conversation with most startup people these days without getting inundated with odes to network effects and the valiance of deferring “monetization” until you find something everyone in the whole damn world wants to fixate their eyeballs on.

In this atmosphere, the term startup has been narrowed to describe the pursuit of total business domination. It’s turned into an obsession with unicorns and the properties of their “success”. A whole generation of people working with and for the internet enthralled by the prospect of being transformed into a mythical creature.

He describes how the VC-backed startup circus is built on wrong premises and gives wrong incentives:

  • “Get Big or GTFO” … build monopolies by any means necessary.
  • Disrupt everything!
  • Buy an audience if necessary, instead of growing it!
  • Have “plans for world domination, complete capture of market and customers!”
  • “Raise more, burn faster, and grow at supersonic speeds yesterday!”
  • “Moving fast” is a license to “treating contractors like a repugnant automatron class of secondary citizens.”
  • Instead of “aligning your financial motivations with the service of your users” you’re incentivized to “capture eyeballs and sell their attention, privacy, and dignity in bulk to the highest bidder.”
  • You need VC, because “going into the cold, unknown world of business without their money in your mattress is a fool’s errand.”

Not only the premises are flawed, but also the process is:

  • San Francisco!!! “Because while that area north of Silicon Valley is busy disrupting everything, it still hasn’t caught up with the basic disruption of geography.”
  • Angels will fund anything, because they don’t know who the next unicorn will be.
  • They don’t care if you’re the unicorn or someone else is, because they’ve funded a bunch of other startups as well.
  • Every step along this scripted, “multi-level investment scheme” you’ll accumulate more bosses “dictating YOUR INCREDIBLE JOURNEY.”

Which probably also sums up my biggest reservations about the prevailing startup culture (although I’ve been working for startups for years now 🤐).