Lies people tell themselves

Michael Arrington is a famous Tech-pundit-commentator-blogger who recently left or got fired from AOL because he wanted to be a VC while being a journalist covering the companies he is investing in.

One way or another that led him and AOL and the super-popular blog he started, TechCrunch, to part ways. All that is interesting back story.

Arrington recently wrote a very provocative article arguing that people who are serious entrepreneurs in serious startups, especially in Silicon Valley, should be willing to give up their life for work: Startups are hard. So work more, cry less, and quit all the whining. Yes he is a genius provocateur.

“… You might be sad that you work long hours and that sometimes your boss yells at you when tensions run high. But you also know that there is nowhere on earth like Silicon Valley. Nowhere else that is structurally designed to help you make whatever you can imagine into reality. Nowhere else where there are so many like minded people who are willing to sacrifice and work hard to create something new….” (from Uncrunched)

This is the usual drivel that is fed to innocents in startups and would hardly be worth mentioning except that it got a huge reaction (both pro and con) in the rarified tech geek startup ranks. If you read the article you notice that Arrington quotes at length from a Jamie Zawinski who captured his feelings in a diary from 1994, for example:

“I slept at work again last night; two and a half hours curled up in a quilt underneath my desk, from 11am to 1:30pm or so. That was when I woke up with a start, realizing that I was late for a meeting we were scheduled to have to argue about colormaps and dithering, and how we should deal with all the nefarious 8-bit color management issues. But it was no big deal, we just had the meeting later. It’s hard for someone to hold it against you when you miss a meeting because you’ve been at work so long that you’ve passed out from exhaustion.” (from NSCP Dorm)

You get the idea. Well wouldn’t you know, Jamie Zawinski for 2011 is not so happy about being used to bolster Arrington’s article. In “Watch a VC use my name to sell a con” he writes:

“Follow the fucking money. When a VC tells you what’s good for you, check your wallet, then count your fingers. He’s telling you the story of, “If you bust your ass and don’t sleep, you’ll get rich” because the only way that people in his line of work get richer is if young, poorly-socialized, naive geniuses believe that story! Without those coat-tails to ride, VCs might have to work for a living. Once that kid burns out, they’ll just slot a new one in.” (from Jamie Zawinski)

You might gather that in this case I am more in Zawinski’s camp.

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