"[Venture Capitalist] Wants To Turn Silicon Valley Into Its Own State." The headline sounds like a Daily Show writer striking gold. But this didn't come from Comedy Central or The Onion, it came from TechCrunch, which was reporting on the Six Californias initiative by investor Tim “The Riskmaster” Draper. And Draper is for real. Like forreal forreal, as he actually seems to believe that California would be better off divided into six separate states. But Draper’s plan really just highlights the worst of Silicon Valley – for the following six reasons.
1. The plan would bifurcate the rich from the poor. And we’re not talking about the difference between East and West Palo Alto. The country’s new richest state (Silicon Valley) would share a border with the country’s poorest state (Central California), without sharing a dollar of tax revenue.
2. It would further serve the in-group. California’s beauty is in its diversity, both geographically and demographically. The tech industry is relatively homogenous. When recruiting is based on a referral system (you recruit your friend, who likely has a similar caliber of education, upbringing, and skin color as you), the cycle towards a more homogenous community continues.
3. It’s more about the ego of the founder than the value of the product. “The Riskmaster” is no stranger to failed ballot measures. In 2010 he spent over $20 million on a failed school voucher initiative. He’s had an interview with almost every major news outlet about this new initiative, and yesterday starred in his own press conference at Draper University in San Mateo. Great founders are the glue that allow their product to sparkle. But right now Draper is claiming the sparkle for himself.
4. Silicon Valley has long been considered a bubble, but the new plan would give the Valley boys formalized borders to stand behind in their isolated glory. Draper talks at length about how competition between states would improve service and lower costs. But interstate collaboration is easier in principle than practice.
5. The plan is disrupting for the sake of disrupting. “Hey, I’ve got this great startup idea” has to be the most commonly overheard phrase at fine coffee shops across California. Everyone has an idea, but the genius is in the execution. Draper’s head is in the sky, but his feet aren’t quite on the ground yet. Let’s think through some of the logistical nightmares this project presents. Electing six new governors, building new infrastructure for our complicated water management system, and staking claim on our prized California Poppy just to name a few…
6. Like most good startups, Draper is trying to fix a user-tested issue. Instead of putting his money, time, and mind towards creating more governments, he should be focused on how technology can foster a better working one. The 6 Californias initiative won’t pass. Period. Even if it were to somehow get on the ballot and pass in California, it would then go to Congress, where it sure as hell won’t pass (adding ten new Senators, redesigning the flag—are you kidding?). This is another case of some of our best and brightest minds going towards futile efforts. What if every engineer and venture dollar spent supporting the next ephemeral photo-sharing app was used to address proven solutions to real problems?
The big leaders in Silicon Valley should use their resources to bring us together, instead of dreaming up new ways to split us apart.
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