We need to stop lionizing start-up businesses simply because we like rooting for the underdog; the Davids over the Goliaths.
Being an entrepreneur doesn’t automatically make you an innovator, a disruptor, a pioneer, a hero, or a pirate. It simply means you’re a business. And while there’s nothing inherently evil about striking out on your own to make a living, there’s nothing inherently heroic in it either. It may sound quaint, but defining yourself simply by what you do rather than who you are is no more than shallow; earlier eras might have even considered it vulgar.
The vast majority of so-called disruptors have no intention of becoming the next Apple, Facebook or Google. Instead, their game plan consists of an “exit,” i.e. selling their company to Apple, Facebook or Google. They’re not trying to change the game; they’re begging for an ante-in.
And on the road to the next big thing, they sacrifice a great deal. Long hours & no salary, extortionist taxes, endless elevator pitches, meetings in pursuit of elusive synergy and begging for scraps from “angel” investors and venture capitalists – loan sharks with delusions of altruism and social impact. All to avoid the rat race and working for The Man, only to become their own Man in their own rat race.
Perhaps it’s simply a sign of the times; during the late 20th century, the Yuppies made no secret of their -intention to climb the professional ladder and become the self-indulgent masters of the universe. But in the early 21st, thanks to a somewhat skewed interpretation of 60s counterculture, “individuality” rules – even if it’s only expressed by slightly different sneakers than the rest of the herd.
Everyone’s a snowflake (or a unicorn?), unique and fragile. Why be just another brick in the wall if you can drop out and truly express yourself?
At least the hippies only found themselves via recreational drugs, bongos and mediocre beat poetry. This new breed is convinced it can have it both ways: a condo in a gentrified neighborhood and a (hybrid) SUV, kids at a private school, all paid for in full by their ultimate expression of self: a business plan to deliver vegan cupcakes via a smartphone app.
Is “individuality” really worth throwing all the achievements previous generations fought for overboard? Eight-hour work days, paid vacation and sick leave, no-fuss health care and pensions? Governments, corporations and the “sharing economy” are laughing all the way to the offshore bank. Governments charge more taxes and pay less entitlements, corporations outsource innovation to easily-acquired startups, and the sharing economy is all about the illusion of independence: all the labor and none of the social safety net.
Bring back the yuppies. They were smug and snobbish, but at least they weren’t suckers.