Jeff Ruane

Silicon Valley Brain Rot

I watched Moviepass, Moviecrash recently and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's the story of Moviepass as told by the founders. This isn't a review, but there will be some mild spoilers for those who don't already know the story.

To set the stage, here's a short clip of the founders talking about their struggles raising venture capital1.

here are the founders of moviepass talking about their lack of access to capital. to answer hamet's question at the end: yes, it's because you're *brothers.* paul graham told us as much

they end up getting ousted from their own company and losing everything. great movie, btw

— Jeff Ruane (@jefbrr) May 31, 2024

The fact that Black founders have trouble raising capital isn't surprising to me. Shameful? Absolutely. Surprising? Not really. Incidentally, the topic had already been on my mind before I saw the film for a few reasons.

DEI hysteria has been kicked into another gear recently. It's just the latest in a long line of reactionary boogeymen that powerful capitalists use to stir up resentment. It's a powerful tool for that purpose. Elon Musk tweets about it often. Marc Andreessen has dabbled, as well as David Sacks. And look, there's a conversation to be had about the effectiveness of DEI and other such programs, but I'm not an expert, and these folks aren't interested in a good faith conversation anyway.

More to the point of this post, this has been on my mind because of something Paul Graham tweeted, and deleted after a few minutes. Luckily, I have screenshots.

Paul Graham tweet reading "Asians spoil all the far left's most prized fictions. Not just that women are underpaid, but also that groups underperform because they're minorities, and that there are no meaningful differences between different groups' native intelligence."

Paul Graham is the founder of Y Combinator, a startup accelerator that funds early stage startups. Some well known giants in the tech world have come out of Y Combinator, such as Airbnb, Dropbox, DoorDash, Stripe, and Reddit. Mr. Graham is a billionaire and has a massive influence on tech startups. Venture capital firms look at Y Combinator to decide what to invest in2. Mr. Graham and Y Combinator have a sort of king maker air to them.

Paul Graham made his fortune by being in the right place at the right time, full stop. He created Viaweb, an e-commerce platform, which he sold to Yahoo! for ~$50m. I'm sure it was difficult to implement, but let's not pretend it was some stroke of genius. There was a known appetite for e-commerce platforms, and he wasn't even the first to market. Amazon was launched the same year as Viaweb3.

When Paul Graham comes out and says openly that "it's a fiction that... there are no differences between different groups' native intelligence," that should horrify all of us. He's one of the most powerful voices in the tech startup world and an open race realist.

At the end of that clip from Moviepass, Moviecrash above, Hamet Watt says:

It's hard to tell sometimes whether that lack of receptivity [from venture capital firms] is a function of doing something disruptive in an industry, or dealing with two brothers trying to do something disruptive in an industry.

I think Paul spells it out pretty clearly. It's the latter. Paul, and other VCs like him, don't think that non-white/non-asian founders have the intellectual capacity to create a successful enterprise. The film bears this out entirely. The founders, Stacy Spikes and Hamet Watt, are forced to hire a white CEO to attract investors, at which point the money comes pouring in. Eventually, the founders are kicked off the board. Due to the new CEO's reckless spending, the company goes bankrupt before they're able to sell their shares. They walk away with nothing.

These early internet founders who became obscenely wealthy before the dot-com bubble still run the show, and they have no interest in spending their days Scrooge McDucking in a giant pool of cash. Meanwhile, they keep Black and brown founders almost entirely out of the game while backing extremely high risk plays run by grifters and charlatans. Not to mention the outsized impact some of these guys, like Elon Musk or Peter Thiel, have on politics.

I have a lot more to say about Paul Graham, and I'll be writing more on him soon. I admired him for a long time, but since that tweet, I've been reading through his articles and they're full of horrible takes. He's a living, breathing stereotype of a guy who got rich almost entirely because of his circumstances, but thinks it's because of his genius. He's the guy from the Monopoly experiment who thinks he deserves his money, even though it was quite literally handed to him.

For the time being, I have no idea how to fix Silicon Valley, but it's beyond broken. At this point in my career as a software engineer, I'm looking for something in the public sector, far away from these all this.

  1. Incidentally, Paul Graham blocked me over this tweet.


  3. Technically, Viaweb was closer to Shopify than Amazon, but the point still stands that it didn't take a visionary to see the market for such software.

#equality #internet #personal #writing