We’re in one of those periods of Silicon Valley where a lot of people are looking for the easy way out. I’ve criticized this before concerning the scourge of acqui-hires or soft landings for companies that should just be allowed to fail. Sean Parker bemoaned this last week, calling the desire for quick and easy flips “toxic.” And today, one brain-dead startup has taken this a step further by offering to “acqui-hire” anyone coming out of an incubator whose company failed. Read: nearly anyone with a pulse.
Bad news for people who prize real entrepreneurship: It’ll get worse before it gets better. Remember: Bravo’s awful show “Silicon Valley” — which celebrates the lamest aspects of “wantrepreneur” culture from the
set $17,000 villa struggling entrepreneurs would totally live in — is airing soon. If it’s the least bit successful, untalented douchebags who want money and fame will flood the Valley in ways we’ve never seen. Between that and the utterly fictional Facebook movie, we’re knee-deep in our “Wall Street” period.
Before you say it, it’s not like 1999. The handful of companies that manage to go public are floundering, so there’s no public bubble currency fueling all of this. But while there may have been different causes, we did see this kind of douchey mania in the late 1990s. I remember one story from 1999, where the hunt for warm bodies to fill startups was so intense that a guy drove by a soccer field in a BMW, rolled down the window and yelled, “Hey! Anyone here want a job?” The modern day version would be driving by something terminally hipster like a rock-climbing park, rolling down the window of a Prius and yelling, “Hey! Anyone here have a completely lame, failed startup I can acqui-hire?”
Lazy profit-seekers love these periods in the Valley. Why not? They can make money without having to actually build a company. It’s like a get-out-of-actual-entrepreneurship-free card.
The good news: Amid all this, there are still people working really hard to build great companies. It’s our job as the press to focus on them.
When in doubt that there’s anyone hard core left, look at Elon Musk. On Sunday, SpaceX successfully launched a cargo rocket into space, a milestone Musk was never sure he could reach back in the days when launches kept failing. Musk expects Tesla to become cash-flow positive at the end of next month and has just completed raising another round of funding to hedge against a worst case scenario. And SolarCity is defying the solar slump having just filed for an IPO.
Three milestones like these in a week’s time would be impressive for any CEO. I’ll remind you that pre-Musk, only Jim Clark had founded three companies that exited for more than $1 billion. But what’s more impressive is how brutally hard each of these sectors is. It’d be outrageous to have success in one of these fields. But all three at once makes you wonder if Musk sold his soul to the devil at some point.
Musk isn’t an entrepreneur who takes the easy way out…ever. All of this other noise aside, those are the people who will keep pushing innovation forward, bullshit reality show and acqui-hires of utterly failed concepts be damned.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman]