I remember listening to Art Tyde at the “all hands” meetings at Linuxcare during the dot-com boom and thinking to myself, this man believes his own hype.
That’s a harsh assessment. Tyde is one of the few capitalists out there whom I think truly means well. And my job at Linuxcare, a company he has recently brought back from the dead with yet another business plan, remains the best I’ve ever had. My time there was the only time in my life when I felt I was actually earning a living.
Of course, it didn’t last. Linuxcare–along with an awful lot of companies, good and bad–was forced to retrench when it seemed that all the venture capitalists suddenly realized that they had funded a bunch of companies without sensible business plans, and swiftly folded their checkbooks. Tyde, along with Dave Sifry and Dave LaDuke, had founded a company with a genuinely good idea, but trusted the venture capitalists when they offered to bring in “professional management.”
A lot of Silicon Valley folks will never, ever, ever trust venture capitalists again because a lot of good companies–as well as some bad ones–went down the toilet in the dot-com crash, all with much the same story of profligate spending by management teams that marketed vaporware, hyping company valuations up to make killings in IPOs.
It was a bit like a Ponzi scheme, or perhaps it actually was one. A few people got into the dot-com business early, produced real products, went through IPOs, and got rich. A few companies–I’m thinking of Yahoo!–produced something (in Yahoo!’s case, a search engine that few people even remember) that has not stood the test of time; many of these companies have been bought out or are still struggling, but those who got involved with them early still did well. And no doubt, a few companies never did actually produce anything, IPOed, and still made fantastic returns for their investors.
It isn’t hard to see the venture capital management team at Linuxcare as aiming for the latter category. And I think a lot of my fellow former employees, most of whom are a lot more bitter, would say something similar.
I’ve been in contact with Tyde a couple times since my Linuxcare days. I’m pretty sure Sifry is still involved in open source software work though I haven’t heard from him. Tyde says he learned some lessons from the Linuxcare experience and I wouldn’t doubt that Sifry has too. Certainly other people I’ve spoken to in Silicon Valley have learned from their dot-com crash experiences.
It’s a shame that Obama hasn’t.
If we had all been really smart, we might have recognized it when Obama’s campaign was about “hope” and about “change,” while the post-nomination-clinch rhetoric beelined to “more of the same.” But as hard as the dot-com crash was–I haven’t found a decent job that actually paid anything since–at least it wasn’t an entire country of over 300 million people at stake.
Gallup’s survey puts underemployment at 18.8 percent. That’s down a bit from when I wrote last month that “the Obama administration seems to view a shortage of jobs as a public relations problem rather than a situation to be dealt with in any meaningful way and many economists who simply don’t want to face reality enable him.” But for all the administration hype, it is now all but certain we’re heading into the second dip of a double-dip recession. And even Obama seems to recognize this as he pleas, apparently in vain, for a paltry $50 billion in aid for state and local governments whose revenue sources have been hard hit by the recession, “saying the money is needed to avoid ‘massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters’ and to support the still-fragile economic recovery.”
More skepticism appeared when he announced a troop “surge” in Afghanistan, where the news just keeps getting worse. Beset with unending bad news, it appears as if someone got James Risen at the New York Times to write a glowing report of Afghanistan’s minerals prospects–as if that would justify the crimes the U.S. has committed there–that’s actually old news, as David Dayen at Firedoglake, Blake Hounshell at Foreign Policy, and John Laumer at Treehugger have all noted. So I guess Obama sees the war in Afghanistan as a PR problem as well.
But here’s how Obama really reminds me of those “all hands” meetings at Linuxcare: On his fourth trip to the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, where the news also just keeps on getting worse, Obama promised that “things are going to return to normal. … I am confident that we’re going to be able to leave the Gulf Coast in better shape than it was before.”
The Associated Press reporter was unimpressed:
That pledge was reminiscent of George W. Bush’s promise to rebuild the region “even better and stronger” than before Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Bush could not make good on that promise, and Obama did not spell out how he would fulfill his.
I don’t know what drugs Obama is on. But if he even cares about retaining a Democratic Party majority in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, he needs to share.