Have you followed the latest meme started by Mike Arrington? It began with a post titled, “Startups are hard. So work more, cry less and quit all the whining.” The title seemed innocuous and content to of the post basically explained that startups have always been hard, highlighting a 1994 quote from early Netscape engineer Jamie Zawinski. Mike argues that more and more of the people have been showing up in Silicon Valley are shocked by how hard they have to work and how rare successful startup exits actually are. He predicts that in the near future our fearless leaders on the Left will be talking about ‘maximum working hours, minimum number of engineers assigned to complete a given task and ultimately unionization of startup workers.’ More and more ‘startup workers’ seem to be suggesting they have a ‘right’ to a certain level of wealth without risk and hard work. Mike explains the answer is very simple: if you don’t want to work crazy hours you should find a less demanding job. Of course he is ever the optimist suggesting,
“deep down you know that you’re part of history, that the things you are building will be written about and thought about forever, then maybe after that good cry after a short sleep under your desk you’ll pull yourself together and remember. That you are a person in the Arena. A Pirate. That you are here to make a dent in the universe.”
If you are like me you read the post and thought, ‘meh…no shit‘, and moved on to the next post on Techmeme. Turns out that Netscape engineer that Mike quoted didn’t appreciate the attribution. He responded with a post titled, “Watch a VC use my name to sell a con.” Jeremy suggests that the entire venture capital system is corrupt – they make money off of your hard work and provide no value whatsoever. Mike responds point by point here. I won’t bother to rehash the points here, but I did want to point out that a LOT of people are starting to get the idea that capital formation is bad – that perhaps capitalism is dead.
I think it all began with the bailout of the investment banks (and mainly AIG). The outrage against the bankers and the insurance companies was well earned and appropriate. More recently that outrage has taken shape as the Occupy Wall Street movement. The general feeling seems to be that capital formation is bad – i.e. accumulating wealth is bad as it allows the rich to get richer. The undertone is that our economic system has failed – that capitalism is somehow dead. Jeremy’s post suggests that VCs don’t actually write any code and as a result any money they make from investing in your startup is somehow ill gotten or as he suggests a ‘con’.
The Left is against capitalism because it’s outcome is by definition unequal. The framers of our Constitution sought to provide a nation of equal opportunity – a nation where a child born of an unwed mother, given up for adoption to a working class family could one day build the most valuable corporation on the planet (his name was Steve Jobs). In America anyone can succeed (and fail) regardless of who their parents were. On the other hand the Left seeks equality of outcome – everyone should be rich or no one should be rich. The Left believes, like Jeremy, that anyone with money must have had some sort of unfair advantage. The formation of capital – i.e. in this case by venture capitalists – is vital to create this equality of opportunity. Without capital how could Steve have built Apple?