You’re doing it again. It’s only been a few years since we last met here, but you, Valley venture capitalist and Alley opportunist, are worse than ever. There will come a day when all the coddling and cheerleading you’ve become accustomed to curdles into rage and recrimination in the wake of another burst bubble, and we’d like to jumpstart that process. So welcome back to Valleywag.
Almost 15 years ago, a failed businessman wrote a book called Burn Rate, exquisitely detailing his descent through the Dot-Com implosion. It was a record for posterity, recounting a me-too ethos and fad economy so asinine that it couldn’t possibly resurface. Right? “It does not matter that not one of these companies—funded or not—is profitable. The hierarchy, the aristocracy, depends on being first...Conquer first, reap later.” When this sentence was typed out, it pointed to titans like Netscape, AOL, and all the nobodies who wanted to be next. Swap out these quaint names for 2013 ones you read (and probably use) like Tumblr or Foursquare, and everything old and stupid is new again.
The extent to which the bubble blowers of today make, do, or really generate anything of any worth is irrelevant to their sycophants—investors, groupies, conference organizers, and beat reporters, all of which now usually overlap. Your startup doesn’t need to be good, it just needs to be disruptive (read: daringly convoluted), if only for a moment. It doesn’t need to be competent, it just needs to be impetuous. It doesn’t even really need to be—a “Coming Soon” website with a nonsense name is enough for a seat at the table. Get a computer science degree, head west, think of a silly title, drop the vowels, shake hands, and wait for free-flowing millions you don’t deserve in exchange for a service no one needs.
Today’s tech boom isn’t an economy of ideas, but an economy of fantasy: the fantasy that anyone wants a company to digitize their paper junk mail, the fantasy that Pictionary on your iPhone is worth a $180 million acquisition, the fantasy that any half-baked idea will eventually lead to a job at Facebook, and whatever status that lends at a bar in Palo Alto. Fad economies are nothing new, but never has so much cash floated atop so little: at the end of the day, tulips still looked pretty on a table. Hawked above all is the fantasy that all of this posturing and programming represents the American best and brightest, some new pixel-industrial vanguard. That insane dream that our national future has little to do with creating, building, or even selling, and more to do with... Chat Heads? At least Wall Street bankers have the decency and self-awareness to hate themselves.
The days of reckoning for the silicon wunderkind are near, and so here we are: to watch them stumble, catalog their hypocrisies, their excess, their layoffs, and the gradual abandonment of their dreams. The Zuckerbergs who bought the household name recognition they always wanted will be given due scrutiny at a time when they’re rarely getting it. We’re picking up right where Valleywag began because nothing's really changed: seven years later, everyone else is still either too conflicted or craven to bother speaking truth to the Valley.
You’ll help too. We want this site to be a place for you to dish on your co-founder’s squandering ways, reveal emails everyone wished had been deleted, and share photos of lavishness purchased with paper wealth. The first tech bust was chronicled most astutely by the people living it, via a humble, simple little message board called FuckedCompany.com. We’re here and ready to tell your stories of greed and arrogance (so send us an email!), or to read them in our comments. Because this business desperately needs an outlet for unvarnished, hard truths about its most vaunted VCs and CEOs. And your company—it’s fucked.
Photo of a very happy Steve Case at the AOL/Time Warner merger announcement: Chris Hondros/Getty