By Eric Van Buskirk
Yiren Lu’s March 12, 2014 article “Silicon Valley’s Youth Problem,” published in the New York Time’s Sunday Magazine got massive attention. You should read it if you work in tech or digital media. Youth Problem bothers me, bluntly speaking, and reminds me what I dislike about the tech work-world today. Why do many people in their 20s and early 30s—like the author– think they are living at a time that is historically unprecedented? To think the euphoria and crazy VC money behind tech start-ups today is completely earth-shatteringly new is ignorant.
Ms. Yu makes scant mention of the burning hot “dot com,” Web 1.0 world. Do you remember when the December issue of magazines like Fast Company was as fat as phone books because so many rich tech companies wanted to advertise? I was there in the middle. I am here in the middle now, working at SEMrush, and I think Web 1.0 was actually MORE exciting.
What of the slow march back to prominence between the 2000 bubble-burst and 2007 when the Internet sector became hot again? That was a fascinating time of smart people starting digital media companies with their own funding, while people denigrated Internet companies (actually mostly in the early 2000s) for being money-losers, destined to see the fate of their predecessors backed by speculation and greed. Ms. Yu misses the historic lesson of this period that was unique.
When I worked in the dotcom, Web 1.0 age, I was careful not to say, “This is so cool, and innovation of the earlier 1900s was not.” Yes, it was a revolution like no other in technology. But I read up as my compatriots did before saying this.
Engineers first, all other web 2.0ers wait in line
Why are so many young technologists ignorant about the role sales, marketing, product management, hard business skills and leadership skills play in the success of start-ups? In the dot com era, the business side of the equation – the side where Steve Jobs sat, let’s not forget -was on par with the technology side. We have Google to thank for Web 2.0 downplaying the real world leadership experience and business skills. Larry Page and Sergey Brin inspired an industry where the engineers are godly and others were mere mortals.
Read up on the dotcom era if you’re younger. It was an equally “disruptive” time. Unfortunately, it ended in an implosion. Let’s hope the current flow of capital to 26 year olds with no management experience doesn’t end the same way.
The similarities scare me.