In the New York Times,
Katie Bienner relates a cultural shift in Silicon Valley: women victims of sexual harassment describing their experiences frankly
. In an industry bound by delusions of meritocracy and egality, simply talking about it is radical.
More than two dozen women in the technology start-up industry spoke to The Times in recent days about being sexually harassed. Ten of them named the investors involved, often providing corroborating messages and emails, and pointed to high-profile venture capitalists such as Chris Sacca of Lowercase Capital and Dave McClure of 500 Startups, who did not dispute the accounts.
The disclosures came after the tech news site The Information reported that female entrepreneurs had been preyed upon by a venture capitalist, Justin Caldbeck of Binary Capital. The new accounts underscore how sexual harassment in the tech start-up ecosystem goes beyond one firm and is pervasive and ingrained. Now their speaking out suggests a cultural shift in Silicon Valley, where such predatory behavior had often been murmured about but rarely exposed.
From the reports, Ellen Pao striking out in the courts only underscored the impunity enjoyed by these men.
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Lindsay Meyer, an entrepreneur in San Francisco, said Mr. Caldbeck put $25,000 of his own money into her fitness start-up in 2015. That gave Mr. Caldbeck reason to constantly text her; in those messages, reviewed by The Times, he asked if she was attracted to him and why she would rather be with her boyfriend than him. At times, he groped and kissed her, she said.
He's not quitting or being fired, but Uber CEO Travis Kalanik won't be at the office next week, or any other week in the near future. Yesterday saw another top executive quit, amid an uninterrupted string of scandals at the ride-hailing company.
His decision comes as Uber finally unveiled the findings of an investigation law firm Covington and Burling conducted into the company’s culture and management to the staff. The investigation was prompted by a former engineer’s brutal account of sexism and sexual harassment at the company.
Among the recommendations that Uber’s board has unanimously voted to accept, is a reallocation of Kalanick’s responsibilities.
“The Board should evaluate the extent to which some of the responsibilities that Mr. Kalanick has historically possessed should be shared or given outright to other members of senior management,” the report reads. “The search for a Chief Operating Officer should address this concern to some extent.”
Uber is one of the most conspicuously disgusting tech companies, marked by the bigotry and criminality of its management and a work culture that makes fools of those who consider Silicon Valley an egalitarian or meritocratic environment.
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Freddy deBoer writes that he's been telling the same joke for years about Silicon Valley's only product, which might be universalized as "At last, a way to verb with nouns on the internet!" But the social-media techopoly is stable, now, and so the venture capitalists have moved on to the three terrible trends that will now occupy their interest.
First is infecting everything with DRM so it's controlled by the manufacturer and limited to their ecosystem. Second is charging rent for being in it and using algorithms to maximize it. Third is marketing workaholic poverty to the young as a way of life.
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We Love Doers So Much We Want to Give Them a Hellish Existence of Endless Precarity
The basic idea here is that 40 years of stagnant wages, the decline of unions, the death of middle class blue collar jobs, the demise of pensions, and a general slide of the American working world into a PTSD-inducing horror show of limitless vulnerability has been too easy on workers. I’m sorry, Doers, or whatever the fuck. The true beauty of these ads is that they are all predicated on mythologizing the very workers who their service is intended to immisserate. Sorry about your medical debt; here’s a photo of a model who we paid in “exposure” over ad copy written by an intern who we paid in college credit that cost $3,000 a credit hour. Enjoy.
The purpose of these companies is to take whatever tiny sense of social responsibility businesses might still feel to give people stable jobs and destroy it, replacing whatever remains of the permanent, salaried, benefit-enjoying workforce with an army of desperate freelancers who will never go to bed feeling secure in their financial future for their entire lives.
Silicon Valley's legendary housing crisis -- now several decades old -- has led to the establishment of semi-permanent homeless camps on public lands, including a notable camp on the banks of Coyote Creek, on Santa Clara County Water District land.
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What to do if you've just signed up to work in one of the most expensive real-estate markets in the world, with almost all of your net worth tied up in illiquid shares in your employer's company? Just ask a Silicon Valley bank for a 100% mortgage, which they'll cheerfully supply on 24 hours' notice, with all the "white-glove service" trappings you could ask for.
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Nootrobox is a Silicon Valley company that sells nootropics (aka "smart drugs'). The employees there stop eating Monday night and don't eat again until Wednesday morning.
From San Jose Mercury News:
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[Nootrobox co-founder and CEO Geoffrey Woo], his Nootrobox co-workers and other techies interested in the same question break their weekly fast with a meal at San Francisco restaurant Elmira every Wednesday morning. The purpose of the fasts is to achieve a state of ketosis, which means the body has run out of carbohydrates and instead is burning fat for fuel. Ketosis has been shown to affect the brain in various ways -- it helps prevent seizures in children, for example -- and some biohackers say it keeps them focused and alert.
"By the end of the day I just have way more energy," said Katie Fritts, founder of San Francisco-based Underclub, an underwear subscription service.
But fasting isn't for everyone. San Francisco-based software engineer Yan Zhu, who breakfasts with the Nootrobox group but isn't employed at the company, gave it up after a few weeks.
"It was just endless suffering and wanting to die," she said.
Amélie Lamont, a former staffer at website-hosting startup Squarespace, writes that she often found herself disregarded and disrespected by her colleagues. One comment in particular, though, set her reeling — and came to exemplify her experiences there. Read the rest
Silicon Valley is all its "we can save the world" mindset when it comes to education, income inequality, and green tech. But where is the Bay Area's tech industry when it comes to gun violence? Over at Backchannel, Scott Rosenberg writes about the technology and sociopolitical challenges in the efforts to build a "smart" gun. From Backchannel:
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If smart guns really offer both a potential market and a public good, why hasn’t the world of tech money come running? Here are some reasons.
(1) There’s no data. Tech investors are a data-driven bunch, yet the entire field of gun studies is moribund — it never recovered from its kneecapping by Congress in 1996, when legislators threatened to defund the Center for Disease Control unless it stopped all research into gun violence. An executive order by Obama lifted the ban in theory three years ago, but the field remains hobbled, and even if the floodgates opened tomorrow, there’s a whole lot of ground to be recovered.
(2) There’s too much shouting. Tech investors prefer to stand above the partisan fray, and even those who have more of a stomach for public policy debates might quail at the level of vitriol the gun issue triggers. Those who do wade in need to dial up the discretion filter to a level that many in the freewheeling tech world might find uncomfortable. For example, in 2014 progressive Seattle investor nick hanauer made a high-profile contribution to a Washington state background-check initiative. Then he got in trouble for an obviously sarcastic Facebook post that read, in part, “We need more school shootings!!!” That just doesn’t happen when you’re investing in, say, high-speed wireless networks.
Silicon Valley angel Ron Conway told the CEOs of his investments who to vote for, and instructed them to pass the picks to their workers. Read the rest
Here are the first 5 minutes of a full-length musical about Burning Man and life in Silicon Valley that these people are hoping you'll want to pitch in and fund. Read the rest
It's crunch time for the show's heroes, but Kevin McFarland finds that some of the humor in Silicon Valley lacks bite.
Silicon Valley takes aim at the emotional insecurity behind superficial male genius, writes Kevin McFarland. But it also fails to escape stereotypes about women in the tech industry.
Did you catch it? It’s a moment I’ve been waiting for Silicon Valley to address in some capacity—the divide between the tech corporations in Palo Alto and the blighted district to the south. (East Palo Alto is a misnomer—EPA is bordered by Menlo Park to the west and Palo Alto to the south.) The first four episodes of Silicon Valley have attempted to subtly insert regional details about the Peninsula into the dialogue of the show, which has always made the Bay Area kid in me beam. Episodes have referenced Sand Hill Road, which is the exit off highway 280 that leads right to the Stanford University campus (dotted with venture capital firms all the way down) and other geographical details that make the series feel lived-in. But tonight, in the opening scene between Erlich and popular graffiti artist Chuy Rodriguez, in a neighborhood referenced as high-crime and which clearly makes Dinesh uncomfortable, Erlich obliquely refers to their location. Read the rest
Silicon Valley indicts the region for its over-reliance on dubious ventures to manufacture a grand façade of happiness, satisfaction, and wealth. Take Peter Gregory’s toga party, the fourth annual “Orgy Of Giving,” a scene of false Roman bacchanalia. Just a few weeks ago, in the pilot episode, Gregory was giving a TED talk in front of a large crowd and projecting the standard image of the tech billionaire, albeit with some left-field views on entirely eschewing higher education in favor of immediately hitting the tech workforce. Now, in a social setting instead of a business one, he’s uncomfortable and curt while thanking rapper Flo Rida as “Florida” (as more people should, since it’s a ridiculous name) for his introduction. Just like the Kid Rock-headlined party that opened the series, this is Silicon Valley pretending to be something it’s not— because the area wants to be as exciting as Hollywood.
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“Articles Of Incorporation” is the first episode of Silicon Valley that really gets room to breathe, allowing the characters space away from the crunch time of the story to bring Pied Piper to fruition.
This is a show with an eight-episode first season, so there isn’t a ton of time to waste on the plot front—so long as this season builds to Pied Piper hitting the market in some kind of nascent form. But this kind of episode is a test of what kinds of story Silicon Valley can tell when it gets away from the Hooli/Peter Gregory competitive binary and just focuses on some kooky developers chipping away at making a startup into a formidable company that puts out a viable product.
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Silicon Valley’s pilot offered the allure of the billion-dollar tech startup, giving Richard Hendrix the opportunity of a lifetime thanks to his potentially game-changing algorithm. But “The Cap Table” is when reality sets it, tough choices need to be made, and the limitations of all involved come screeching into focus. Having decided to take Peter Gregory’s offer to start small, Richard Hendrix now has to figure out how to build the foundation of a company where before he just had something a lot of other people were telling him had a gargantuan valuation. It’s such a good idea that Jared Dunn (Zach Woods, Gabe from The Office) wants to leave Hooli in order to join up. But Erlich feels threatened by anyone intruding, and threatens the poor guy with the ghostly features on the eve of Pie Piper’s first appointment with Gregory. Read the rest
Kevin McFarland reviews the premiere of HBO's new series "Silicon Valley