Remember what it felt like to be put in time out? The whole purpose was to give you a minute to think about what you did wrong. With that reflection (seemingly silly for a 5 year old), you were supposed to “never do that again” or just figure out how to not get caught. In the tech industry, we don’t even have remorse, even when we get caught. We aren’t really held accountable even as residents of San Francisco. The idea of accountability has been lost on all of us.
So let’s review what zero accountability looks like:
A great place to start is with our favorite weekend hangout: Dolores Park. For some reason, people think its OK to leave trash, cigarette butts and random items strewn across the park. After the whole park was renovated, you would think people would take good care of it. But no, the err of entitlement settles over the park along with the fog.
Also, why is every crosswalk blocked by cars? It’s as if we are supposed to jaywalk to cross the street? No one is handing out tickets, and the behavior doesn’t change. It’s the pedestrians right of way! It forces us to put ourselves in precarious situations.
Something utterly disgusting about this town is how both men and women treat the opposite sex in dating situations. Girls never let guys know it isn’t a good fit, and guys will say anything to get laid. Similar to how we try to optimize companies, we optimize dating as well. I call it “Bumble of the Hour,” an efficient way to date as many people as possible, regardless of how it inevitably treats the other person. “Like, yeah she’s No. 3 out of eight dates I have this week. I gotta iterate you know. Do some A/B tests”… because she is not a person (and vice versa).
Another interesting aspect of personal expression is the Impostor Syndrome. I am sure you know someone like this, who acts like they are the shit when they have done nothing to earn it. Just because you raised money for your startup doesn’t mean you are a baller! You should be using that money to move your business forward, not take trips to Ibiza (or buy a Ferrari).
The biggest area I wish I could hold people accountable for is (1) flakiness and (2) ghosting. I have written about ghosting before because it is super shitty. You can’t call someone out for ghosting you the same way you can call someone out for being flaky. For some reason, we do not hold each other accountable for any of this. When you do, you seem like a total asshole. (I’ve obviously been there).
BUSINESS AND TECH
On to my favorite area of not being accountable in this town: behavior in business.
To start, let’s talk about money. No one in this town can decide on the valuation of their company. It can change very quickly when you raise money, and can be used to manipulate new hires into taking an equity play over cash. It can be highly manipulative and highly dynamic.
Additionally, of that money raised, why is it OK for founders to take money off the table, in every way someone has explained it to me, whether to align interests with the investors or for founders to protect themselves seems like a load of shit. If this behavior causes a company to fail, who is held accountable? You can’t get that job back (or that equity if you haven’t reached your cliff).
On to my favorite area that people are NOT held accountable in our industry; stealing each other’s ideas. With product, you can steal anyone’s idea, code or talent, as long as you get to market first. With strategy, it can be less straightforward. Last year, I went into a job interview where they asked me to outline a go-to-market strategy for the first 3 to 6 months after launch. Since I was in the job seeker position, I had to comply if I wanted to get the job. The problem was that my ideas weren’t safe. The company stole my strategy and hired someone more junior (and about 60K cheaper) to execute it.
One of the reasons you can’t really hold anyone accountable for these transgressions is because you don’t want to damage your current and future networks. When talking about our city, no one wants to come out and say anything because they will look like a zealot. With relationships, no one wants to say anything because it makes you look like you care too much and are weak. In business, no one holds each other accountable because it may damage those relationships that you have worked for years to build.
No one wants to be the martyr or the whistleblower, nor do they want to cause drama. As a result, our ways will probably never change, and most people are OK with that.
With a background in journalism, Melissa Eisenberg has been working in the tech industry for eight years, currently leading the SF FashTech community.Dolores ParkMelissa EisenbergSan FranciscoSan FranstartupSilicon Valleytechnology