Want to Do Business in Silicon Valley? Better Act Nice


The first rule of Silicon Valley venture capital is never insult a start-up. Founders are always killing it, disrupting the world or just plain 🙌🙌🙌.

If a start-up is fizzling, shuttering or caught scamming? The socially acceptable response is total silence.

Everyone knows that. Except Jason Palmer.

The start-up in question was AltSchool, a Mark Zuckerberg-backed project to turn school into a start-up experience. It had just announced it was pivoting out of existence after raising $174 million.

Mr. Palmer is in this field: He is a venture capitalist in Washington, D.C., focused on education technology. On June 29, he tweeted that AltSchool was always a bad idea, and he was glad that his firm hadn’t invested in it.

By not knowing the rules, he showed exactly what those rules are, and just how the Silicon Valley positivity machine runs. For venture capitalists, Twitter is a place to sell. It’s a place to talk up portfolio companies. It’s a place to perform the industry pastime of “thought leading.”

Venture capitalists do not think of themselves this way, of course. CB Insights, a company that performs industry analysis, polled venture capitalists on this question: “Should VCs avoid public criticism of the industry / start-ups?”

The result was clear: 88 percent said investors should feel free to criticize.

So, two months after the tweet, how is Mr. Palmer feeling? The outrage that came both in public and private did not, in the end, oust him from the industry. He continues to invest.

For him, it was “a reminder,” he said, that tech entrepreneurs truly believe they are saving the world. He wanted to be clear now that he truly believes this, too. They were right. His tweet was very bad. He has been chastened.

“Tech entrepreneurs are just as mission driven as people in nonprofits,” Mr. Palmer said. “They believe they are helping the world just as much as nonprofit founders.”

But of course most start-ups fail, he added, a little quieter, and the tech world ought to learn how to talk about failure.

“In fact, most high-risk start-ups are nonprofits,” he said. “Effectively nonprofits.”

His public messages now accord with Silicon Valley venture capital norms.



Sahred From Source link Technology

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