Disrupt Silicon Valley, DisruptSV for short, is a grassroots movement of tech entrepreneurs to do to tech startups what they did to their predecessors: do what they can’t, do it better, and make them redundant.
The Silicon Valley venture-backed startup way of doing business markets itself as hip, as offering opportunity, and as a way for founders to take control of their own destinies. It has failed to deliver on all three of these promises.
Silicon Valley is not hip. The culture has such extreme and rigid demands for conformity that it snuffs out the very individuality that lies at the root of all innovation. Pressure from investors to force exponential growth burns out teams and invites new and old seedy business practices into the tech sector. The result is that startups are not the cool, relaxed places to work that are advertised, but high-stress, bigcorp-from-day-one enterprises that duplicate on a smaller scale what people wanted to get away from. To top it all off, if you dare to think for yourself, straying from the far-left party line, you get blacklisted. Silicon Valley is square.
Silicon Valley is not upward mobility. Sure, there are many success stories featuring the people who have managed to claw their way up. In a more typical result, one spends their savings, burns their bridges by getting investment from friends and family, and depletes their youth and energy building something that is becoming less and less their own. It is a treacherous ladder with broken rungs, and in order to climb it, one must take wood from another ladder for makeshift repairs as they go. This manifests in the typically predatory way that business is done, with founders passing the buck from investors to early employees, offering more equity for increasingly reduced salaries, only to then block their equity sales down the line if the company becomes successful. Silicon Valley is a de-facto tax on the middle class.
Silicon Valley is no way to be your own boss. While this dream is no lie — as we discuss in-depth in the blog — the notion that Silicon Valley’s approach can deliver it epitomizes deceit. The only time you ever get to be in charge is before getting funding, and, even then, founders can’t do things fully their way lest they fail to get funded. It gets worse as you sell board seats in funding rounds; board-seated investors are measured by their ability to steer portfolio companies from the back seat, and this means driving wedges between that pesky board majority that founders typically make up early on. From the moment you’re divided, or a majority of board seats have been sold, or even if you retain board control yet need your next funding round very badly, you are no boss at all. You are merely employed by even less relatable superiors, and this time with the risk of legal trouble for failing to maintain the impossible juggling act of both being board-seated shareholders and subordinates of the board. Silicon Valley offers servitude.
The solution we present is an entrepreneurial uprising. Venture capital, as a system for starting enterprises, was designed for ventures that cannot bear fruit immediately; as bootstrappers have found, this is contrary to the case for most technology startups. Revenue can be achieved early, costs can be kept low, and ownership can be preserved. You can truly be your own boss, and doing so is sufficient to undo the damage Silicon Valley’s methods have done to the tech industry.
In the blog, we discuss not only bootstrapping, business philosophy, and tech-specific matters such as management methodologies, but also opportunities to disrupt Silicon Valley giants who have stretched themselves thin or are underserving or actively abusing some market.
Our intended audience is engineers. Full stop. The notion that MBAs should manage while engineers code distinguishes soulless corporations from lively small businesses. The idea that one can specialize in management, and that an understanding of the underlying effort is optional, is a fundamental mistake in understanding these roles. We will be the ones to fix it by creating and rightfully occupying the highest offices in our own businesses.
Furthermore, the plight of the engineer in today’s tech industry is absolutely shameful. No tech company can operate without engineers, the subject matter experts, the computer whisperers. The most important people in the building. Yet we find ourselves at the bottom of the status hierarchy.
Is this how they treat doctors in hospitals, or how they treat lawyers in courtrooms? Absolutely not. They afford them the respect their profession rightfully demands in its home turf. They acknowledge them as the natives, while the others — the marketers, the financiers, the secretaries — are their employees and in their service.
The tech industry is not a set of employers, it is our home. It is rightfully ours to run, and it is our duty to claim it. It is where our needs come first, and the others we hire are there to serve us. We will decide what to make and how to make it. We will bring the vision. We will steer the ship. We are the experts, and we will be the owners.
See you on the journey,