“Tech Entrepreneurs Are Just as Mission Driven as People in Nonprofits”

(p. 2) The first rule of Silicon Valley venture capital is never insult a start-up. Founders are always killing it, disrupting the world.

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.

That single jab at a failed company sent the investor elite into conniptions.

. . .

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.”

For the full story, see:

Nellie Bowles. “In Silicon Valley, Skin Is Thin.” The New York Times, SundayStyles Section (Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019): 2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 20, 2019, and has the title “Want to Do Business in Silicon Valley? Better Act Nice.” (Where there is a slight difference in wording between the online and print versions, the passages quoted above follow the print version.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.