You want to really push San Francisco’s buttons? Make a list of all the ways this city sucks (originally posted by Peter Shih on Medium, then pulled down) and people will come at you with pitchforks, flyers with your face on it, and a maelstrom of well-deserved takedowns. Celery founder Peter Shih stepped into a hornet’s nest yesterday by posting, then disclaiming, then retracting, all the things about San Francisco that he finds despicable, ranging from the weather to the women not being up to his hotness standards (which I could write another editorial about entirely). But of course, the list, which Shih claimed to be satire, isn’t the big issue here. It’s a stupid one and not worth, as one commenter put it, completely “getting butthurt” about. But underlying the reaction to Shih's piece is the increasing sentiment that the heads of the tech industry don’t care about San Francisco, the city they’re making the big money from. And lists like this one, even as a failed farce, do nothing to dispel that feeling. That's the bigger problem here.
I’ve argued in the past against stereotyping an entire industry based on the assumptions we have about its workers. The place where I do join the argument, though, is in wondering where are the passionate pieces from the heads of tech companies? Why aren't they writing about the ways they are investing in San Francisco? I don’t mean a press release about a company using funding to help some community organization buy new equipment. Instead, heads of the new tech breed, I'd like to see you write a full-fledged editorial, with the passion that inspired Shih to pen his silly piece, talking about why you care about San Francisco. Prove all the stereotypes about tech heads to be wrong by voicing your opinions about what you are doing and want to do in San Francisco. It's because you remain silent, or react with sarcasm, that the sentiment against an entire industry is able to build such strength.
Those of us outside the industry read the news about the big tax breaks tech companies earn. We see cover stories like the San Francisco Bay Guardian’s recent one about Airbnb revealing the ways startups are more concerned with profit than working with city officials. And when an editorial from one of the heads of the industry circulates? It’s either completely self-serving (like Sean Parker’s ridiculous editorial about how his wedding was nearly ruined by people butting into his very public nuptials) or it’s lame crap like Shih’s list.
In the end, this issue is less about what Shih wants to make fun of in SF, or how sad Sean Parker is that his overblown ceremony got the overblown treatment. It’s about the tech industry leaders showing some investment in this city, by responding to all the anger against them and showing why they want to be in the Bay Area. To demonstrate that they care about this city more than they care about their self-involved money making interests.
One lesson these idiotic editorials show again and again is San Franciscans want people who move here to love this city like they love it. And so far we haven’t had any strong voices from the tech world showing that they are into more than the city’s money. So again, tech leaders, how about it?
I do believe there are tech founders who have altruistic missions, who do love San Francisco and want people to know that, who would never make flip lists crapping on this small city with big pride. But the silence is deafening compared to the backlash attitudes like Shih's and Parker's inspire.