If I had $1 million for every time a founder told me "It's impossible to raise funding if you're not a twenty-something dude," I could lead their Series A round. The same bias applies to hiring. The ideal resume shouldn't be much longer than "Dropped out of Prestigious University." This obsession with youth, reports The New Republic, has turned Silicon Valley into "one of the most ageist places in America":
Tech luminaries who otherwise pride themselves on their dedication to meritocracy don't think twice about deriding the not-actually-old. "Young people are just smarter," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told an audience at Stanford back in 2007. As I write, the website of ServiceNow, a large Santa Clara–based I.T. services company, features the following advisory in large letters atop its "careers" page: "We Want People Who Have Their Best Work Ahead of Them, Not Behind Them." [...]
In talking to dozens of people around Silicon Valley over the past eight months—engineers, entrepreneurs, moneymen, uncomfortably inquisitive cosmetic surgeons—I got the distinct sense that it's better to be perceived as naïve and immature than to have voted in the 1980s
Because time only moves in one direction, to keep up with the cerebral crowd, one is a forced to find a superficial fix. So now in the cradle of innovation, renowned for its radical openness to new ideas, male tech workers have resorted to plastic surgery in order to make themselves fit the pattern and perpetuate the status quo.
The New Republic talked to Dr. Seth Matarasso, a San Francisco plastic surgeon who caters to this clientele:
First, the age at which people seek him out is dropping—Matarasso routinely turns away tech workers in their twenties. A few months ago, a 26-year-old came in seeking hair transplants to ward off his looming baldness. "I told him I wouldn't let him. His hair pattern isn't even established," Matarasso said. The techies also place a premium on subtlety. "They're not walking into their office in front of thirteen-year-old co-workers looking swollen and deformed. They'd rather go slow, do it gradually," he told me. This helps explain why Fridays are his busiest days for tech-industry patients: They can recover over the weekend and show up Monday morning looking like an ever-so-slightly more youthful version of themselves, as though they'd resorted to nothing more invasive than a Napa getaway. [...]
Matarasso told me that, in ascending order of popularity, the male techies favor laser treatments to clear up broken blood vessels and skin splotches. Next is a treatment called ultherapy—essentially an ultrasound that tightens the skin. "I've had it done of course. I was back at work the next day. There's zero downtime." But, as yet, there is no technology that trumps good old-fashioned toxins, the most common treatment for the men of tech. They will go in for a little Botox between the eyes and around the mouth. Like most overachievers, they are preoccupied with the jugular.
The free-thinking empiricists who demand a youthful glow argue that the correlation between age and startup success is an uncomfortable fact—you're just too politically correct to admit it. But according to the New Republic, VCs have not done their due diligence. If you mine the data, it actually shows that:
...the whole premise of youthful innovation isn't even true. It turns out older people have historically been just as "disruptive" as younger people. A 2005 paper by Benjamin Jones of the National Bureau of Economic Research studied Nobel Prize winners in physics, chemistry, medicine, and economics over the past 100 years, as well as the inventors of revolutionary technologies. Jones found that people in their thirties contributed about 40 percent of the innovations, and those in their forties about 30 percent. People over 50 were responsible for 14 percent, the same share as the twentysomethings. Those under the age of 19 were responsible for exactly nothing. One study found that even over the last ten years—the golden age of the prepubescent coder, the youth-obsessed V.C., and the consumer Internet app—the average age of a founder who could claim paternity for a billion-dollar company was a rickety 34.
Much like the notion that truly smart people are socially awkward introverts or that only hardcore hackers can be great programmers, the cult of youth was born at a time when unkempt geeks were the underdog. (Nevermind that these "formerly excluded groups" are now the privileged class.)
Fast-forward to the present and it's hard not to detect the PCC/Homebrew influence on the local patois. In 2011, famed V.C. Vinod Khosla told a conference that "people over forty-five basically die in terms of new ideas." Michael Moritz, of Sequoia Capital, one of the most pedigreed firms in the tech world, once touted himself as "an incredibly enthusiastic fan of very talented twentysomethings starting companies." His logic was simple: "They have great passion. They don't have distractions like families and children and other things that get in the way." But, of course, whereas the Homebrewers mostly wanted to unleash the power of computers from IBM and share it with the common man, the V.C.s want to harness youthful energy in the service of a trillion-dollar industry.
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