After Uber henchman Emil Michael bragged about his bright idea to spend $1 million to investigate "shady" journalists' private lives (and "Dude, Where's My Uber?" star Ashton Kutcher stepped in right beside) the New York Times was, in typical fashion, "ON IT!"
"[T]he problem goes far beyond privacy issues for journalists or ordinary customers," writes Neil Erwin for The Upshot, "What all these incidents have in common is that they offer a portrait of a company without adults in charge."
Missing two birds with one stone, Erwin both infantalizes the Bay Area and sidesteps the very real question of how to regulate fast-moving tech companies. After all, they may wear hoodies and get workplace feedback on their level of “super-pumpedness,” but adults, not children, are in charge of Uber. Should we wag our finger at tech, or charge an $30 billion-valued company as a "juvenile" just because it's new?
But that's the tone being set, beautifully echoed by Mike S., in a comment on the article: "This is what happens when near children are rewarded with obscene amounts of money before the companies they start make a decent profit, let alone pass their tenth birthday." For the record, Uber's CEO Travis Kalanick is 38.
In closing, Erwin poses "old-school" corporate models — like banks where people presumably wear suits, not startup tees — as necessary role models for Silicon Valley's new breed of corporation. "Most tech entrepreneurs would find the corporate culture of an Exxon Mobil or a Walmart to be stultifying, but they are among the most successful companies on earth, depended on by millions of people a day, for a good reason." Here in the Bay Area, I doubt we'd idolize Exxon or Walmart for either their contributions to society OR their corporate maturity. Call us crazy.
Silicon Valley has lots of young people, New York, we really, really get it. (Brooklyn transplant Matt Haber complained of San Francisco's "Peter-Pan" theme park atmosphere in the Chron just last month, and New York Magazine loudly bemoaned our immaturity and lack of style earlier this year.)
Can the tech world ultimately grow into some long pants and proper suits? Is that even necessary? "[T]he very values at the core of start-up culture — the move fast, break things, us-against-the-world spirit of experimentation are inconsistent with the kinds of responsibilities that come with being an economically important company that touches millions of customers," Erwin writes. Fair enough.
But look, when we're not playing artisanal mini-golf or riding a slide at work, some of us happen to be raising millions of dollars in venture funding and contributing to what many argue is another bubble waiting to pop. So why not let a few mouthy executives learn from their mistakes and not assume an entire region is being run by petulant teenagers, K?