recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : venturecapitalism   7

Solving All the Wrong Problems - The New York Times
"We are overloaded daily with new discoveries, patents and inventions all promising a better life, but that better life has not been forthcoming for most. In fact, the bulk of the above list targets a very specific (and tiny!) slice of the population. As one colleague in tech explained it to me recently, for most people working on such projects, the goal is basically to provide for themselves everything that their mothers no longer do.

He was joking — sort of — but his comment made me think hard about who is served by this stuff. I’m concerned that such a focus on comfort and instant gratification will reduce us all to those characters in “Wall-E,” bound to their recliners, Big Gulps in hand, interacting with the world exclusively through their remotes.

Too many well-funded entrepreneurial efforts turn out to promise more than they can deliver (i.e., Theranos’ finger-prick blood test) or read as parody (but, sadly, are not — such as the $99 “vessel” that monitors your water intake and tells you when you should drink more water).

When everything is characterized as “world-changing,” is anything?

Clay Tarver, a writer and producer for the painfully on-point HBO comedy “Silicon Valley,” said in a recent New Yorker article: “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.”

O.K., that’s a start. But the impulse to conflate toothbrush delivery with Nobel Prize-worthy good works is not just a bit cultish, it’s currently a wildfire burning through the so-called innovation sector. Products and services are designed to “disrupt” market sectors (a.k.a. bringing to market things no one really needs) more than to solve actual problems, especially those problems experienced by what the writer C. Z. Nnaemeka has described as “the unexotic underclass” — single mothers, the white rural poor, veterans, out-of-work Americans over 50 — who, she explains, have the “misfortune of being insufficiently interesting.”

If the most fundamental definition of design is to solve problems, why are so many people devoting so much energy to solving problems that don’t really exist? How can we get more people to look beyond their own lived experience?

In “Design: The Invention of Desire,” a thoughtful and necessary new book by the designer and theorist Jessica Helfand, the author brings to light an amazing kernel: “hack,” a term so beloved in Silicon Valley that it’s painted on the courtyard of the Facebook campus and is visible from planes flying overhead, is also prison slang for “horse’s ass carrying keys.”

To “hack” is to cut, to gash, to break. It proceeds from the belief that nothing is worth saving, that everything needs fixing. But is that really the case? Are we fixing the right things? Are we breaking the wrong ones? Is it necessary to start from scratch every time?

Empathy, humility, compassion, conscience: These are the key ingredients missing in the pursuit of innovation, Ms. Helfand argues, and in her book she explores design, and by extension innovation, as an intrinsically human discipline — albeit one that seems to have lost its way. Ms. Helfand argues that innovation is now predicated less on creating and more on the undoing of the work of others.

“In this humility-poor environment, the idea of disruption appeals as a kind of subversive provocation,” she writes. “Too many designers think they are innovating when they are merely breaking and entering.”

In this way, innovation is very much mirroring the larger public discourse: a distrust of institutions combined with unabashed confidence in one’s own judgment shifts solutions away from fixing, repairing or improving and shoves them toward destruction for its own sake. (Sound like a certain presidential candidate? Or Brexit?)

Perhaps the main reason these frivolous products and services frustrate me is because of their creators’ insistence that changing lives for the better is their reason for being. To wit, the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, who has invested in companies like Airbnb and Twitter but also in services such as LikeALittle (which started out as a flirting tool among college students) and Soylent (a sort of SlimFast concoction for tech geeks), tweeted last week: “The perpetually missing headline: ‘Capitalism worked okay again today and most people in the world got a little better off.’ ”

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, where such companies are based, sea level rise is ominous, the income gap between rich and poor has been growing faster than in any other city in the nation, a higher percentage of people send their kids to private school than in almost any other city, and a minimum salary of $254,000 is required to afford an average-priced home. Who exactly is better off?

Ms. Helfand calls for a deeper embrace of personal vigilance: “Design may provide the map,” she writes, “but the moral compass that guides our personal choices resides permanently within us all.”

Can we reset that moral compass? Maybe we can start by not being a bunch of hacks."
2016  allisonarieff  siliconvalley  problemsolving  disruption  claytarver  sanfrancisco  capitalism  jessicahelfand  books  invention  narcissism  theranos  comfort  instantgratification  hacking  innovation  publicdiscourse  publicgood  inequality  marcandreessen  morality  moralcompass  soylent  venturecapitalism  brexit  us  priorities 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Venture capital has a self-dealing problem -- Fusion
"If the tech industry is as important to America’s future as Silicon Valley thinks it is, they should want these gatekeeper institutions to be as meritocratic as possible. And that means making sure that they operate with as little in-group prejudice as they can. Sometimes, that might mean missing out on a big deal over a conflict of interest. But it would give aspiring tech founders some confidence in the integrity of the system they’re entering."

[via: http://log.scifihifi.com/post/113467684156/if-the-tech-industry-is-as-important-to-americas

See also: http://log.scifihifi.com/post/84235469306/it-turns-out-that-insider-ness-provides-little ]
vc  venturecapitalism  meritocracy  inclusion  2015  kevinroose  diversity  gender  race  technology  siliconvalley  inlcusivity  inclusivity 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The Kleiner Perkins Lawsuit, and Rethinking the Confidence-Driven Workplace - NYTimes.com
"When a group of men and women took a science exam and scored the same, the women underestimated their performance and refused to enter a science fair, while the men did the opposite.

At Google, men were being promoted at a much higher rate than women — because they were nominating themselves for promotion and women were not.

And at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the venture capital firm currently on trial for gender discrimination, employees have described a culture in which the people who got ahead were those who hyped themselves and talked over others. Again, they were usually men.

The confidence gap between men and women is well documented. But it is also clear that a lack of confidence does not necessarily equate to a lack of competence (or the other way around.) So the challenge for workplaces is to enable people without natural swagger to be heard and get promoted.

At Kleiner Perkins, one solution was to give Ellen Pao, the former junior partner who is suing the firm, coaching to improve her speaking skills to participate in the firm’s “interrupt-driven” environment. Testimony is continuing in Ms. Pao’s lawsuit, and the jury hasn’t yet been given the case to decide whether Kleiner Perkins is liable.

But the interruption coaching raises an interesting question. Is it the employees’ responsibility to learn how to interrupt, or is it the employers’ job to create a culture in which people without the loudest voice or most aggressive manner can still be heard?

“On the one hand, we need to lean in and be more confident and put ourselves out there, and there is more hesitance to do that for women than men,” said Joyce Ehrlinger, a psychology professor at Washington State University and an author of the study that found that women underestimated their performance on the science exam.

“But there’s this issue of how women are perceived,” she said. “We don’t put ourselves out there because we know it’s not going to be accepted in the same way.”

It is “the double bind of speaking while female,” as Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook executive and “Lean In” author, and Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School, recently wrote in The New York Times.

People who coach executives on public speaking in Silicon Valley said interruption training was not common, but they said that to reach positions of power in the tech industry, people need to be able to aggressively speak in meetings. Coaching often includes work on how to effectively communicate in meetings and is sometimes described as assertiveness training. Kleiner has said it provided Ms. Pao with coaching so she could learn to “own the room.”

Venture capitalists describe typical partner meetings as full of verbal intimidation where the people who speak most confidently are the ones who succeed. Some women in the industry said that training such as Ms. Pao received would be helpful in that environment.

The confidence gap begins very early, Ms. Ehrlinger said, when parents overestimate the crawling ability of boys and underestimate that of girls, for example. It can be reinforced at work, where women are paid less than men and evaluated in more negative terms.

Some employers have figured out ways to address it, other than teaching women to interrupt. The show runner for “The Shield” banned interrupting during pitches by writers, Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Grant reported.

At Google, senior women began hosting workshops to encourage and prepare women to nominate themselves for promotion.

Women are often more comfortable asserting themselves when they talk about ideas in terms of a group, Ms. Ehrlinger said – describing a plan that has been vetted by multiple people or explaining how it would benefit the whole company, not just their own careers.

Still, in an age when the No. 1 piece of career advice is to build one’s personal brand, that is not necessarily a clear path to success, either."

[via: http://log.scifihifi.com/post/113466975721/at-kleiner-perkins-one-solution-was-to-give-ellen ]
gender  confidence  culture  2015  clairecainmiller  ellenpao  siliconvalley  technology  inclusion  vc  venturecapitalism  google  behavior  patriarchy  inlcusivity  inclusivity 
march 2015 by robertogreco
PandoMonthly: A Fireside Chat With Sarah Lacy And Chris Sacca - YouTube
[via http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4965041 relating to http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/07/23/a-self-made-man-looks-at-how-he-made-it/ ]

[Once specific portion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViHuU6-CFDo ]

"I think, sometimes, like, arguing with libertarians can be really frustrating because, I think, it can be, um..., I think it can be intellectually lazy. And I think it can be convenient, and, in the same way that, um, you know when everything is going right it's easy to attribute it to your own success and when things are going wrong, it's because you got fucked or because you were unlucky etc., like, I think sometimes, like, the libertarian point of view can be, um..., can be rooted in a limited set of circumstances where you give yourself a little more credit than, um.., than you want, or than you are due, probably."
problemsolving  money  optimism  buckminsterfuller  wealthdistribution  incomegap  entrepreneurship  gambling  finance  decisionmaking  incentives  motivation  employment  elitism  regulation  government  traviskalanick  uber  politics  startups  women  gender  pandomonthly  sarahlacy  paternalism  economics  society  venturecapital  venturecapitalism  capitalism  2012  chrissacca  libertarianism  sharingeconomy 
december 2012 by robertogreco
How VCs Turned My Startup Into A Nightmare
"In the twenty-odd years of its existence, the Web has become the province of virtual monopolies (and the U.S. has become stuck at over 8 percent unemployment) for this exact reason: the inability of those in charge to realize the interconnectedness of the culture. Particularly, the false conviction among the rich that the middle class needs them more than they need the middle class, culminating, perhaps, in the ravings of Edward Conard and his cockamamie trickle-down-on-steroids theories.

So long as we continue to measure "success" — and allocate cultural and political influence — in dollars, we will remain at the mercy of those suffering the curse of Midas — the special gift of paralyzing all they touch through their thirst for gold."
middleclass  wealthdistribution  class  monopolies  finance  capitalism  money  success  edwardconard  venturecapital  venturecapitalism  vc  startups  technology  business  2012  mariabustillos 
december 2012 by robertogreco
The Gatekeeper-Model of Innovations – An Integrative Framework for Entrepreneurs and Venture Capitalists | Scribd
"This study uses an adapted gatekeeper‐model by Csikszentmihalyi to reveal the different stages of the innovation process and to build a theoretical framework of the relationship between both parties. Through the complexity and the interconnection of all the different aspects it is designed as a “door opener” to a rich field of further research as well as it is aimed at helping practitioners understand the innovation process within a complex and dynamic environment."
roberthinsch  innovation  entrepreneurship  venturecapitalism  vc  mihalycsikszentmihalyi  complexity  dynamism  process  business  interestingpeopleivemet  interconnectivity  dependencies  trust  interconnected 
june 2010 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read