An inconvenient truth about Silicon Valley and Donald Trump

Hello Backchannel readers!

This is Jessi. I believe Donald Trump annoyed the founders of Silicon Valley because they all have so much in common. Listen to me. They consider themselves the ultimate disruptor. Trump won the presidential election (if not universal suffrage) with a promise of anti-establishment, and to change everything. This characteristic has long defined the valley; it’s the idea from which the tech founders get a sense of their identity – and that idea still resonates through the garage, starter accelerator, and general office space from Palo Alto. San Francisco. Things can always be reimagined to be better than the present, and the best way to do that is by ignoring existing constraints and systems and dreaming of new things.

The problem, however, is that many of the valley’s most disruptive ideas have transformed into giant companies that have established our culture and economy as a mainstream. The tech world may claim to be disruptive, but they’ve emerged as industry giants – the kind of old power broker that doesn’t accept the chaos associated with disruption. new. And Trump? He is the personification of disruption. Trump reminded them of the gap between their origin and their current state. (See today’s section on Uber in the Trump era.)

Usually, when people begin to demolish this facility, they have succeeded in creating a more refined and calcified version of it. It’s classic. Earlier this week, I published a story about Peter Thiel’s fellowship program of the same name, pay young people to drop out of college to support entrepreneurship. With the aim of being a worthy way to help smart teenagers learn entrepreneurship without going into debt, the Thiel Scholarship has become an honorable benefit awarded to young men. have been successful (and only a few women), many of them have looks and sound quite similar to Thiel himself. He started dropping out of college – to prove that genealogy didn’t matter. Instead, he just created an even more elite genealogy, endowed with an even narrower group of established entrepreneurs.

In many ways, the graduate student’s trajectory reflects the recent history of Silicon Valley. Its charter members are traitors and opponents – people who question the status quo and people with radical ideas about how to change the future. But their success in promoting those ideas comes at a cost: Those ideas have taken the founders of them from the edge into trends. In the United States and beyond, everyone has a personal computer. Then an AOL account. Then there is Facebook. Then there is the smartphone, and so on. And as technology moves from nerdland to the heart of our economy, the companies that introduce it have evolved from small, innovative startups to giants that currently threaten almost everyone. industry. Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft are five of the seven largest companies in the world. (Berkshire Hathaway and ExxonMobil are the other two companies.) In other words, the breakers became the base.

That brings me back to Peter Thiel. He became a reality ambassador in the valley. He matured to become a member of the new establishment, without giving up his roots. He’s a self-made billionaire, benefiting from the valley’s rise; he wrote Mark Zuckerberg his first check for Facebook. But he is also the type of man who opposes free thought, who calls himself a counter-establishment. He’s always willing to bet with the status quo, to trade chances. I write about fellowship partly because I want to get to know Thiel better by getting to know the people around him. In doing so, I read it again Zero to One, the best-selling book he wrote with Blake Masters on building startups. Even the personal questioners of Peter would often step back and admit that it was a very clever look at what made companies in the valley successful. My favorite thought he introduced was one that embraced human power. “Other animals are instinctively motivated to build things like dams or hives, but we are the only ones who can invest in new things and how to make them better,” he writes. .

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