Silicon Valley and the world of startups in general is supposed to be a safe space for unconventional thinking and weird ideas. But spend much time reading about startups and talking to those involved in them and you quickly realize that, like every other segment of the population, VCs, entrepreneurs, and techies have their orthodoxies.
Maybe it's that the Valley is a benevolent meritocracy. Maybe it's that there's a particular methodology that helps startups get ahead. Maybe it's a devotion to a particular technology or management fad. But some beliefs just seem to be shared by a huge percentage of startup insiders.
Andreessen Horowitz VC Andrew Chen recently set out to explode that groupthink. On Twitter this week the well-connected investor asked his circle to be bold and share their "least popular but most deeply held opinion about tech/startups."
His fascinating prompt kicked off a sometimes downright shocking discussion, with top names in startups contributing opinions ranging from cranky to heretical to straight-up scandalous. Chen kicked off the discussion with his own unpopular opinion:
mine is probably that brand marketing doesn't matter for startups. def got a lot of [poop] for that one. here's my prev tweetstorm on the topic: https://t.co/5pfafVriXg-- Andrew Chen (@andrewchen) August 4, 2018
A host of other big names then chimed in with theirs, including this one from VC Hunter Walk, which attracted so many likes Chen suggested it might not actually be all that unpopular after all.
founders and investors should do more to help team members have reasonable expectations of what their options could be worth.-- (@hunterwalk) August 4, 2018
Early PayPal exec turned top VC Keith Rabois shared a more shocking opinion:
The lean startup method is a guarantee of failure.-- Keith Rabois (@rabois) August 4, 2018
Chen's fellow Andreessen Horowitz VC D'Arcy Coolican threw cold water on those searching for the "next" Silicon Valley:
The "next" Silicon Valley is a myth. Either geographical network effects hold and SV becomes more important, or they don't and everything is decentralized. Either way there's no "next" SV.-- D'Arcy Coolican (@DCoolican) August 5, 2018
Software developer Jacky Liang, on the other hand, thinks the next big startup hub is rising in Asia, and Silicon Valley is in denial. (Chen applauded his suggestion.)
Tech in China will very soon overtake Silicon Valley, and they won't even notice it because the majority will discredit Chinese tech with outdated thinking like your common strawmen of Communism, "they won because government doesn't allow competition," they have more people, etc.-- jacky (@jjackyliang) August 4, 2018
Then there was this bomb from Stanford professor and author Bob Sutton.
Mine is that the whole ecosystem is more similar to a Ponzi scheme than most at the top of the pyramid would like to admit.-- Bob Sutton (@work_matters) August 4, 2018
When VC Eric Friedman posted this opinion, he apparently got a lot of pushback over private message.
Would rather have a B player in person than A player remote.-- Eric Friedman (@EricFriedman) August 4, 2018
I'm not sure if nonprofit executive Eileen Gill can be called a startup insider, but her contribution to the discussion seemed to garner a lot of support.
You are far most likely to be successful if daddy is rich.-- ms_smartypants (@eileengill) August 4, 2018
Likewise, founder Ryan Deiss' opinion might be generally unpopular but has some pretty vocal niche support.
Using "lifestyle business" as a pejorative term to describe a profitable business that will "only" ever be a $20-$50mm in revenue is both pretentious and prickish.-- Ryan Deiss (@ryandeiss) August 4, 2018
Finally, several comments noted that studies back up this unpopular opinion from product guy Tyler Hogge.
Founders are actually risk averse and not these risk-loving crazy people. They might define risk differently than others, but they are risk averse still.-- Tyler Hogge. (@thogge) August 4, 2018
Intrigued? Then the entire thread, which included plenty of back and forth and many more unpopular ideas, is well worth a read.
So how about you, what's your least popular opinion about tech and startups that you insist is completely right?