The app economy is concentrating ever-more deeply in the Valley.
Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]
In a lavish Silicon Valley mansion, amid ridiculous liquid-shrimp appetizers and a performance from Kid Rock— “the poorest person here” in a room full of Eric Schmidts and Elon Musks—a handful of hoodie-clad twentysomethings start grumbling.
“These guys built a mediocre piece of software that might be worth something someday, and now they live here,” the shaggy-haired one says to his gangly friend. “There’s money flying all over Silicon Valley, but none of it ever seems to hit us.”
A few moments later, the gangly one observes, “It’s amazing how the men and women at these things always separate like this.” A third jumps in: “Every party in Silicon Valley ends up looking like a Hasidic wedding.”
With that, the first few minutes of HBO’s sharp new comedy Silicon Valley from Office Space creator (and former software engineer) Mike Judge lay out most of the reasons why the titular tech hub is ripe for skewering: It’s full of young people with too much money, revered personalities with cultish admirers, and brilliant professionals who are disasters in their personal life thanks to their industry’s “women problem.”
The show, which premieres Sunday and has already been met with enthusiastic reviews, adds to a small wave of television projects scrutinizing the culture of the Bay Area’s most notorious industry. Betas, one of Amazon’s early forays into original content, premiered last November; Bravo’s 2012 reality series Start-Ups: Silicon Valley counted Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of Facebook founder Mark, as an executive producer. (In March, Amazon chose not to renew Betas; Bravo canceled Start-Ups after one season.) The projects arrive sandwiched between two Steve Jobs biopics—Jobs opened in theaters last August, while Aaron Sorkin’s similar project is in the works—and just a few years after David Fincher’s Oscar-winning The Social Network (also penned by Sorkin) made a million dollars uncool.
Silicon Valley has been the epicenter of information-technology innovation for decades, though. So why are all these shows about it happening now?
Read more. [Image: HBO]
JPMorgan pays CEO Jamie Dimon $20 million, and it’s instantly the subject of widespread angst—online, in newspapers, and all over cable news. Then, this week, Google announces a $106 million payday for Chairman Eric Schmidt, and the reaction is relatively mute.
This was the subject of a Steven Davidoff’s column (that notably left out the word “bailout.”) People have every reason to be mad at JPMorgan and Dimon, given the way the last seven years have gone, not just for the bailout but also for all the lawbreaking that has characterized Dimon’s watch (nepotism in China, LIBOR, money laundering, and the list goes on.). While there are reasons to be mad at Google, they don’t involve blowing up the world economy, consuming billions of dollars of taxpayer money, and then whining about being treated unfairly.
That’s why people are upset about Dimon’s paltry $20 million rather than Schmidt’s princely $106 million. But it doesn’t make Silicon Valley’s huge payouts right.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
What Silicon Valley might look like if all of its employees actually lived there.
[Images: First Cultural Industries]
Imagine an energy company which manages a pipeline through Canada’s taiga. The company’s charged with maintaining that pipeline, with making sure it isn’t leaking and hasn’t been compromised. So, every day, the company pays a local to get in a plane and fly over the otherwise inert, massive metal tube, looking for objects, organic or otherwise, that shouldn’t be there.
Or that’s what they’ve done for many years. Five years from now, that pilot might be out of a job. Tiny satellites, whizzing over head in low Earth orbit, could photograph every meter of the pipeline. It won’t seem like anyone’s nearby, but, should a truck or stain appear on the ice, a system administrator in Houston would get a text message warning of a problem.
Humans began photographing their home planet from space in a scientifically useful way about a half-century ago. Now the images are ubiquitous: On a web search, in a phone app, on the news, we see the browns and blues that denote pictures taken from the sky. They have rollicked around the culture, spawning both the techno-hippie Whole Earth Catalog and the $3 billion military contractor Digital Globe.
Read more. [Image: NASA]
The story of Silicon Valley start-ups like Google, Facebook, and Snapchat have earned a mythical status in the business world. Terms from west coast tech culture—disrupt, innovate, hack—have been exported to companies that want to re-create start-up success in areas that have nothing to do with technology. But what’s difficult is pinpointing exactly what “a culture of innovation” looks like. It’s easy to repeat catch-phrases like “move fast, break things” or “ask forgiveness, not permission,” but it’s much harder to figure out how to bring that to your company’s office.
Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]
In aughty four, so goes the tale,
Mark Zuck’berg sat, and drinking ale,
He chose just how his site would look.
(That site, of course, is now Facebook.)
Alas, Mark felt a tad confined
Because he was red colorblind,
So now he picked a special hue,
Not maroon or taupe: No, a dark blue.
Last week, the New York Times detailed the personal, political, and financial connections between Newark mayor Cory Booker and a who’s who of Silicon Valley: Eric Schmidt, Marc Andreessen, Reid Hoffman, Sean Parker, and more. Some of them backed his 2011 startup, Waywire. Others raised nearly $700 million for his bid in the race for New Jersey’s open senate seat, the primary for which Booker won on Tuesday. One donated straight to Newark: In 2010, Mark Zuckerberg gave $100 million to improve the city’s schools.
Why would a bunch of entrepreneurs and executives in California donate money to a guy running for senate in New Jersey? Broadly speaking, these donations could be counted in the uptick in lobbying efforts by Silicon Valley companies. Google is on the list of top overall spenders in Washington thus far in 2013, at $7.8 million; it spent 2.5 times that amount in 2012, $18.2 million. Mark Zuckerberg caused a media hubbub when he started his own lobbying organization, FWD.us, this spring, which has had mixed success in supporting politicians who want immigration reform. The organization’s website lists many of the contributors who have also given money to Booker, as well as notables like Yahoo!’s Marissa Mayer and Instagram’s Kevin Systrom.
As Silicon Valley’s increase in official lobbying shows, the days when the tech world was seen as and tried to behave as an apolitical force are over.
Read more. [Image: Stephen Lam/Reuters]
You may not know this, but Chuck E. Cheese’s — yes, the pizza place — has its origins as firmly planted in the soil of Silicon Valley as Apple, HP, or Intel. In fact, it sprang from Nolan Bushnell’s Atari like Athena to the videogame company’s Zeus.
Which is to say two things: one, if you grew up in the 1980s, the same guy — Bushnell — is basically responsible for a good portion of your childhood longings; and two, WHAT! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! THAT’S CRAZY.
This connection got me thinking wild thoughts. I got very excited about the hypothetical secret history of Chuck E. Cheese’s. Perhaps Bushnell used an early computer to calculate precisely how to burrow Chuck E. Cheese’s brand into the very soul of every 7-year-old in America! And did he imagine that the animatronic rat mascot and his friends were going to be the leading edge of a personality-infused robotic future? (iChuckECheese!)