Auguste Rodin was an obsessive genius, horrid toward his family and other people. This type of personality has been evident throughout history. Silicon Valley high tech jerks have also been around for decades. The “bad” Steve Jobs is only one of many examples. A more recent example would Uber’s Travis Kalanick, whose behavior arguable has severely damaged Uber’s business and its IPO. The conundrum we face with these people is that once they are in place it can be very difficult to remove them.
Perhaps the premiere of Season 4 of “Silicon Valley” twigged me to share this post. but despite the title, the HBO series only connection may be the now viral “mean jerk time algorithm.” The real “Silicon Valley jerk” has been around for decades, buried with all the other dirty laundry. Uber’s Travis Kalanick has only brought it front and center at this moment. It is something of a conundrum as some of the jerks are also the most successful. We all now know about the “bad” Steve Jobs. Oracle for years had a very bad reputation that came directly from Larry Ellison himself. Microsoft was long known as a “sweatshop” with a highly negative culture led by Steve Ballmer. Even venture capitalists themselves have caught the disease as evidenced by Reid Hoffman and the late Tom Perkins of KPCB. The best assessment I have heard is that these aggressive unrestrained corporate cultures destroy their own goals. Or better yet, the saying that “culture trumps strategy.”