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Silicon Valley Corporatists

Remember the days when an entrepreneur would perfect their whiz kid ideas in a garage and bring them to market? Did Steve Wozniak ever envision the behemoth that Apple would become and the cult camp that worships every new product that flows from their robotic coolie assembly lines? Riots Over Rotten Apple Mania describes an example of the forbidding underbelly of corporatist business model that Apple exemplifies so dramatically. Notwithstanding this record of 21th century sweat factories, do the venture vulture capitalists of Silicon Valley interject added value in the products and services they fund or do this culture of touting IPO offerings simply game a system to print money based upon imaginary dreams?

 

The Economic Policy Journal article, Silicon Valley Investor Joins The Corporatism March, cites Ron Conway, a Silicon Valley angel investor, who has backed many of the tech companies that we know and love.”

 

“Conway wrote a piece for Techcrunch where he’s calling for the other Fascism. Remember the Fascist Mussolini from Italy. It was he who said, “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”

 

“Gone are the days when the tech community can innovate and run their businesses in spite of government. As we saw with the SOPA/PIPA debate, public policy has a direct and significant impact on startups and the investors who support them.

 

Whether it is regulations that stifle innovation or tax policies that hinder job creation, government has a major role in the success or failure of a startup. It is critically important for the tech community to engage in public policy.”

 

Silicon Valley companies are not limited to IT development, just as much as investment funding is not wholly occupied from Wall Street firms. The principle is the same wherever the money comes from, as the Rise of the “venture corporatists” explores in an account about John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

 

“None of the alternative energy sources being developed today – solar, wind, geothermal, or biomass–is close to financial sustainability, which means that the supersize returns V.C. funds depend on will require massive government subsidies, regulations, and mandates… So Doerr has launched an audacious campaign to invest millions in handpicked political candidates and influential political action committees, to push for subsidies and pro-greentech policies and require the government to purchase the kinds of fuels and technologies his startups will be marketing. Since 2000, Doerr and his wife, Ann, have contributed more than $31 million to political candidates and causes.

In essence, Doerr is helping to create the biggest new market the world has seen since the dawn of the oil industry–and asking for taxpayer dollars to do it.”

 

“Green” alternative energy has more to do with replicating money than producing sustainable energy. Instead of writing code for computer-generated speech, the paradigm at play buys the ambassadors of government policy, circuitously as part of the business plan.

 

Lachlan Markay sums up the paradox for investors and the public in The Venture Corporatists. “As long as green technology remains not simply an economic venture but a moral one, taxpayers will continue to nobly lose money as politically connected “social entrepreneurs” reap a windfall.”

 

Here lies the rub. What exactly is the moral imperative? The lament of Alex Shud Bayley in No, I still don’t want to work for Google makes a universal point.

 

“Since I’ve been out of the Silicon-Valley-centred tech industry, I’ve become increasingly convinced that it’s morally bankrupt and essentially toxic to our society. Companies like Google and Facebook — in common with most public companies — have interests that are frequently in conflict with the wellbeing of — I was going to say their customers or their users, but I’ll say “people” in general, since it’s wider than that. People who use their systems directly, people who don’t — we’re all affected by it, and although some of the outcomes are positive a disturbingly high number of them are negative: the erosion of privacy, of consumer rights, of the public domain and fair use, of meaningful connections between people and a sense of true community, of beauty and care taken in craftsmanship, of our very physical wellbeing. No amount of employee benefits or underfunded Google.org projects can counteract that.”

 

The notion that Silicon Valley business enterprises automatically advance civilization and improve the human condition is one of the most disturbing viewpoints that have infected the smart phone sect. Placing the blame solely on tech executives avoids the reprehensible relationship that Ron Conway is so eager to exploit.

 

The article, Why DC And Silicon Valley Don’t Mix Well seems to agree.

 

“The thing that DC should be most focused on is “fixes to previous government efforts that tried but failed to fix a problem that turned out not to need a regulatory solution.” Other industries seem to want handouts and investments and the like, but you don’t see that much in Silicon Valley.”

 

REALLY ???

 

However, some executives excel in screwing up a once reliable service.  Silicon Valley corporatist companies often fail. The next likely candidate for a downfall is Yahoo.  Marissa Mayer’s tenure as CEO may be numbered according to Eric Jackson, founder and managing partner of hedge fund Ironfire Capital.

 

“Jackson says that since Mayer took over she has spent $2 billion buying companies and that most of those acquisitions have been for naught.

 

“Can you name any other acquisition Yahoo has made besides Tumblr? If not, what does that say about them?” Jackson writes at Forbes. “If these small acquisitions were mostly talent-driven as characterized by management, why was it necessary to spend, say, $30 million to hire 3 people from a dying company? Was this really the best use of shareholder capital? Yahoo should not [be] responsible for bailing out VCs from their failed investments. This isn’t TARP.”

 

Deplorably, many tech corporatists are mismanaged like Yahoo. Divesting a significant portion of Yahoo’s stake at the Alibaba IPO, raises a much needed current valuation, but what does this transaction do to improve the service? The Corporatists only care about tapping the rigged markets for immediate gain.

 

James Hall

 

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