About a year ago, millionaire tech investor and adult-sized baby Jason Calacanis proclaimed a simple message: if you're not successful in this country, you're not working hard enough. Every bias and bigot-ism is just an obstacle to hop over. This week he's at it again. Why is anyone still listening?
Calacanis reaped his money long ago by flipping a network of blogs for $25 million from AOL. Since then, he's spent his time launching failed companies (Mahalo), failing companies (Inside.com), a popular conference series, and angel investing in the successful companies of others. This last gig is key: Calacanis is fatuous like a fox, the kind of man who'd have three too many beers at a bowling alley and show off how easy it is to put some spin on the ball. But he's writing the checks, and cashing checks from others. He's the one with the power.
Being a white man with money in Silicon Valley—what else is there? What more could anyone need to hear? If you're raising cash for your startup, the fool's check is cashed as easily as the sage's. In the past year, Calacanis' ignorant comments—"If you want to break into tech journalism you only need to blog every day for three years, there isn't a race wall in tech"—haven't seemed to haunt him much. Maybe this lack of any consequences is why he's still flapping hs mouth the same today:
It's a childlike view of American structural prejudice, in that there's no structure at all. There are racists out there, and boy, is that a shame! But if you try hard enough, you can be a venture capitalist, too. If you're not a wealthy venture capitalist yet, it's because you merely aren't trying hard enough.
This is an argument so stupid, it cannot be disproven. When people point out how Calacanis has benefited from being a white man in the United States, he dismisses that as "racism." He's from "Brooklyn," remember? When others object that trying simply isn't enough for many who aren't white and male, he encourages them to go to the library, or stream startup-organized video lessons on YouTube. It's that simple. You're still not a CEO? Get off your ass or stop whining.
If Jason Calacanis were just another confused Twitter user, muting him would be enough. One more bloviating tech-type, sadly, isn't going to register on many meters.
But Jason Calacanis isn't your run of the mill web dunce: he commands tens of millions of dollars in investing power, and the ear of countless influential figures in the industry. And he's a power broker with a very warped, dangerous definition of power, one that puts all responsibility on the have-nots, and none on himself and his friends. When he babbles about trying harder and reverse-racism, people listen—and at a time when inclusion in tech is wretchedly low, people who could make a difference are now off the hook. Just learn to code! Somewhere, in Palo Alto, other men nod. They star the tweet espousing software Horatio Alger-ism, they close the tab, and they move on. They've done their part in making the system work for everyone.