In my latest column for VentureBeat, I try to make some sense of the Occupy movement and its relevance to Silicon Valley. I was wondering why the protestors weren’t targeting local icons of wealth and power, like VC firms, Google, Oracle and Apple.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized there were good reasons for this. But there’s still something a little off about the relationship between wealth and social responsibility here.
Here’s an excerpt from the column. Let me know what you think.
I’ll admit, I’m a bit confused by the movement and its targets — but the answer, I think, has to do with the way finance works in Silicon Valley versus Wall Street.
In broad strokes, Silicon Valley investors are focused on building huge, billion-dollar companies. While you can get to a billion dollar valuation, at least temporarily, with a really weak, unscalable idea, you can’t stay there long without creating something of real value. You certainly can’t create a billion dollars in revenue without doing something meaningful — and, by the way, employing a lot of people along the way.
Wall Street, by contrast, defines “innovation” in terms of new financial instruments: investment vehicles that are increasingly complex and hard to understand and that do little for the country besides generate record profits for the banks that invented them.