Every morning some startup founder rises and thanks our species for its short attention span. If we didn't forget the innumerable failures of yesterday, who would ever fund their close cousins today? The same goes for the people behind the debacles—people like our old friends Peter Shih and Greg Gopman, who are already banking on amnesia, if not amnesty.
Shih and Gopman epitomized San Franciscan villainy on a national scale, as their vile comments and cavalier social posts stood in for a new class of techie brutes. We can't touch the mostly veiled world of the startup—other than what's boasted about online—so it was a communal relief to put these two through the wringer. Their names were cited in trend pieces across Salon, Al Jazeera, HuffPo, the San Francisco Chronicle, and beyond—so they kept as low a profile as was humanly possible in 2013.
But Silicon Valley is the land of failing hard and failing often—and if bad businesses are rarely punished, it follows that jerks get carte blanche too.
So Peter Shih is back on the tech scene, with his payment startup, Celery, landing a healthy $2 million investment round, after ranting against homelessness and ugly women in San Francisco. In all the prominent outlets that reported the investment news, Shih's name was never once uttered, despite being so hated that posters protesting his existence were slapped up around San Francisco. What's he care? Now he has his money, which is all he wanted before he verbally spit on a pile of homeless people (not even bothering to teach them how to code!).
It doesn't matter how you fuck up; all you need to do is show venture capitalists that you're not an entirely abysmal person. Just look at Sarah Lacy, who despite becoming an editorial punchline, clenches onto enough goodwill to secure another round of cash. Even if much of it had to come from Tennessee.
Gopman's attempt at a comeback is nowhere near as formal as Shih's, and certainly a hell of a lot more crude. He hasn't received the TechCrunch benediction yet, but at he's at least daring to go back out in internet public and rejoin the tech community after giving it a horrible black eye by writing horrendous things about the homeless on Facebook. Pure impunity. Gopman is now helping organize a tragicomic "improv for startups" seminar. The session itself—which teaches corporate-centric routines like "Yes" and "Make your partner look good"—is put on by a networking company called Tradecraft, which Gopman says he's "helping out."
He didn't elaborate on that relationship, nor did the CEO of Tradecraft or either improv instructor ever get back to me about anything. Gopman's name might not be shit, but it's still certainly mud. Still, it's astonishing that anyone would want their name associated with his in a business context, or any other, really. And it may just be a start: a friend of Gopman recently told me he's considered a stunt run for political office, which speaks either to his delusion, desperation, or both.
If delusion is so popular among these primates of the Valley, it could be because it's so often swapped out for undue reality. No one's thought about Matty Monahan for almost a year, when he overshadowed a Google-sponsored trip to India by getting horrifically drunk on the beach, his naked dick subsequently the stuff of social media (and Gawker posts). Revealed as an asshole, his company imploded, and he proceeded on a yearlong pilgrimage of opulent photo-sharing and incomprehensible blog posts about Mark Zuckerberg getting blowjobs, renting boats, and other nonsense. At one point he pretended to be in touch with Banksy.
Who knows if any of it's true, but let's just assume most of it isn't, as he's got all the trappings of an unstable guy who went fully nuclear after his penis was published on the internet. People like Matty—the unstable, the unfaithful, the manic—aren't usually prime HR material.
And yet, in his latest rant, he boasted of being hired at Science, an investment firm that can claim fellow mega-failure Peter Pham among its ranks. I couldn't believe a company that handles the money of others would hire Matty Mo, but they confirmed it as true—in spite of, or because of his insanity, I've got no idea.
The three have that in common, the No way they're really that bad, right? quality. Even when they prove that YES THEY ARE, any sort of "pushing the limits" or "radical hideousness" can transmogrify itself into a techie virtue. Nowhere else is failure considered an inherently good thing, so, is it really so strange when public meltdowns and pariah-hood become the greatest thing of all?