Entrepreneur Delivers Blistering Takedown of Silicon Valley
A Swedish entrepreneur has delivered a blistering takedown of Silicon Valley, asking: “What’s the point of innovation if you’re not building a better society?”
Nils Pihl, the CEO of real-time behavioral analytics platform Traintracks.io and founder of Mention LLC, has penned a blog post describing why he refused to launch his startup in San Francisco’s Silicon Valley, a location known for being home to many of the world’s largest tech corporations including Apple and Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Nils explained that he had previously lived in Silicon Valley but, after traveling back to the region, he believes that it has “lost its way” and is instead now a breeding ground for narcissism and home to a privileged class that have a complete disregard for those less fortunate than themselves.
In the blog, Nils explains that after Obama was elected as president, he moved to Silicon Valley and was “soul-crushingly” disappointed by what it had to offer. He writes:
“Far from the expected glass towers of a technological utopia, what I found was a surprisingly run down city that reminded me of traveling in Eastern Europe. It seemed to be all pot and potholes, and the culture was difficult to navigate. I was told not to discuss religion and politics, which is really all we talk about in Sweden, and I was confused by the sheer amount of narcissistic Ayn Rand followers.
What’s the point of innovation if you’re not building a better society?
I encountered levels of homelessness and mental illness that I was entirely unprepared for, but was repeatedly discouraged from donating any spare change by my new American community. It’s not your problem, that was the mantra that un-ironically flowed from the lips of entrepreneurs that otherwise convinced themselves that they were making the world a better place, presumably for themselves and the people who were their problem. There was something absurd and almost obscene about watching the technocrats step over and around the homeless to get to jobs where they’re given free food and drink.”
By contrast, Nils describes Beijing – a city he moved to after becoming disillusioned by Silicon Valley – as “an insane mix of history and futurism,” saying that he fell in love with it “before I had even stepped out of the taxi.”
Nils then describes his thoughts after recently returning to Silicon Valley, calling it “a parody of itself” and, although he states that there are some things he loves about the region, he continues: “It wouldn’t hurt the technocrats to once a decade or to look themselves in the mirror and question common sense – why are we really here, in Silicon Valley, and not somewhere else?”
The piece is a depressing insight into the world of Silicon Valley from the perspective of a young entrepreneur, highlighting how – in Nils’ own words – it is no longer a breeding ground for technical innovation, but rather “an expensive but well-funded hub focused on business execution” that is failing to use its might to serve a “higher calling.” But it seems that Nils isn’t the only one who has questioned the validity of locating a business in Silicon Valley, with it being reported earlier this year that the region lost more than 7,500 residents in 2015, the first time in four years that it had lost more residents than it had gained, with many choosing to relocate to thriving tech cities Austin and Seattle.