Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ambition, greed, and a more diverse Silicon Valley (2)

Last update: Sunday 5/1715
"Greed is good."

This was Gordon Gecko's signature line, Gordon Gecko, the unscrupulous mega mogul played by Michael Douglas in his Academy Award winning role in the 1987 movie classic "Wall Street."  Now fast forward to 2010:

"You know what's cooler than a million dollars? A billion dollars."

This was Justin Timberlake's big line in the 2010 movie "The Social Network" wherein he played a character based on real life software mogul Sean Parker, a movie that depicted the unscrupulous rise of Mark Zuckerberg, the founding mega mogul of Facebook.


The obvious point of these two quotes is that the most successful Wall Street/Silicon Valley entrepreneurs of the late 20th and early 21st centuries have been incredibly ambitious and/or incredibly greedy. Of course, these movies weren't carefully researched documentaries. Nevertheless their portrayals are consistent with the findings of carefully researched studies of America's most successful entrepreneurs since the Robber Barons of 1890s, the Tycoons of the Roaring Twenties, the Masters of the Universe of the 1980s, etc, etc, etc.

So what? Why should readers who are concerned about getting more Blacks, other minorities, and women into relatively high paying software careers care about ambitious, greedy entrepreneurs?

My answer: They shouldn't. IMHO a substantial portion of the current high profile efforts to diversify Silicon Valley has been misdirected because, as I pointed out in a recent note on this blog, the vast majority of America's software development jobs are not in Silicon Valley. So most of our efforts to provide career opportunities in software for Blacks, other minorities, and women should focus on corporate and government employers outside the Valley because that's where the vast majority of America's software jobs are located.

The diversification of Silicon Valley isn't about jobs; it's about power.
Although Silicon Valley has become one of the most important, perhaps THE most important center of technical/financial power in the world, the vast majority of the software engineers who work in Silicon Valley have good salaries but they don't have any power. So diversifying their ranks will not increase the power of Blacks, other minorities, and women in the U.S. Nor is there reason to believe that Blacks, other minorities, and women employees will be able to work their way to the top in the foreseeable future. 

Power can be inherited, delegated by higher authorities, bestowed by voters, or seized. I suggest that a substantial portion of the Valley's continuing dynamism derives from the fact that not much power in the Valley has been inherited (yet), or delegated by higher authorities, or bestowed by voters. Most of its power has been seized by the founding entrepreneurs and by the savvy venture capitalists who supported the founders' startup operations ... mostly Caucasian and Asian men (so far) ... who have been incredibly ambitious and/or incredibly greedy ..... Soooooooooooo ....
Wanted: Blacks, other minorities, and women entrepreneurs/venture capitalists who are incredibly ambitious and/or incredibly greedy
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Related notes on this blog: