The "tech bro": He spits on the homeless. He drinks $15 cups of pour-over coffee. He rides a whale of a charter bus to work, which blocks your dinky city transit trolley as it attempts to enter its legally designated space.

In San Francisco you will find a lot of people who are frustrated with the tech bro--and an entire economy (hello, rising housing costs!) that seems to cater to the spread of those who fit the stereotype. The city is at the point where a not-insignificant portion of residents are rooting for the so-called tech bubble to implode at least a little, the New York Times reported earlier this month. 

"It's practically a ubiquitous sentiment here: People would like a little of the air to come out of the tech economy," Aaron Peskin, a member of the city's board of supervisors, told the Times. "They're like people in a heat wave waiting for the monsoon."

A recent ad by a tech startup illustrates how this sentiment, once considered radical, has crossed into the mainstream and maybe into the tech world itself.

"Meet People Who Don't Work in Tech," reads the ad on Facebook by San Francisco-based startup UpOut, seeming to voice a collective desire of city residents. Text added in the Facebook post of the ad reads, "Tired of tech bros? Discover SF's secret events with complimentary tickets."

 

A number of Facebook users noted the irony of the ad, commenting that the app itself was probably created by tech bros (it was) and that the ad likely appeared in the feeds of "techies" on Facebook (it has). 

Turns out, the sense of irony was intentional. "We don't mind poking fun of ourselves," says Sam Ho, CEO of the venture capital-backed event aggregation and event ticket subscription company. 

The ad was inspired by a conversation that Joshua Fechter, UpOut's 24-year-old growth marketer, had with his roommates, discussing plans to go to San Francisco's Marina District. His roommates, who work in recruiting, were quick to comment that tech bros populate that neighborhood. "And I was like, 'Oh, what are tech bros?'" Fechter recalls.

One can perhaps forgive Fechter, a recent San Diego transplant, for not knowing the term. He says he understands it can apply to former fraternity brothers who work in tech, like the  ones who invented Snapchat, and people who work in sales technology.

Some use the term to refer to anyone who works in tech. 

It's "kind of a pain point for people," Fechter has learned, thanks to the roomies.

More pejoratively: The term "tech bro" also refers to a tech company employee who acts entitled, lacks self-awareness and is tone deaf about sensitive issues such as the realities of urban poverty. A recent viral open letter to San Francisco city officials by startup Commando.io founder Justin Keller serves as an example of such tech bro-iness.

"The wealthy working people have earned their right to live in the city. They went out, got an education, work hard, and earned it. I shouldn't have to worry about being accosted. I shouldn't have to see the pain, struggle, and despair of homeless people to and from my way to work every day," reads the blog post.

Tirades like the one from Keller are common enough that tech journalist Julia Carrie Wong referred to a "tech bro homeless rant cycle" when she wrote about Keller's post. There's a resignation in San Francisco, for those working outside of tech, that it's impossible to escape the industry's downsides.

In that context, UpOut's ad could feel like gallows humor, though Ho frames the ad's message in a more positive light. The goal was to play up the irony of trying to avoid the unavoidable, he says. "It's one of those things to get people to laugh."

Published on: Mar 14, 2016