An SXSW Surprise, What’s Wrong With Silicon Valley, and What’s Right With Uber


An Austin Surprise
Marketing’s tightening grip on SXSW has been unpleasant to watch, but this year one unlikely company created an experience that delighted all comers. Find out which company NewCo founder John Battelle gives the award to for best — and most surprising — marketing execution at SXSW.

Holding a Mirror to Silicon Valley
There’s plenty wrong with Silicon Valley. Indeed, a small industry of pundits (prime current example) lives to poke holes in the Valley mentality. An essay making the rounds now, Silicon Valley’s Unchecked Arrogance, raises core questions about Valley assumptions, and has garnered more than 2,400 recommends at press time, which makes for a hit on Medium. The success of the piece reminds that there’s an audience worried about the same things. (And, frankly, they’re the sort of people who want to work at NewCos on a mission.) The essay asks how we build social fabric, ownership, and meaning into the companies and products we create. Authors Ross Baird and Lenny Mendonca don’t offer any answers, but for steps in that direction Baird has written a followup in response to (and pushing forward) a healthy debate questioning the underpinnings of Valley capitalism that’s happening on Medium now.

Matt Joseph’s Twitter Rant and Reaction
In one of his responses to “Silicon Valley’s Unchecked Arrogance,” Baird references the Valley’s lack of diversity. Matt Joseph, an entrepreneur prepping for a Y Combinator demo day, is living it. This tough-minded wide-ranging, 30-installment Twitter rant shows what it’s like on the inside if you’re black, where “we had to overcome things that others in the exact same position didn’t have to.” It’s not easy to read if you’re white, male, and live in the Valley, and some people who fit that description have waded into the conversation, leading Joseph to respond “Moments like this give me hope. Proud of the VCs and others who had the courage to look in the mirror and start convo’s in their networks.” Let’s hope it’s not a one-day thing.

Government Promotes Open Source — Or Does It?
At first, it looks like some legislators in New York State are trying to give the open source software community a chance to do well by doing good. Senate Bill S161 provides a tax credit “for taxpayer expenses associated with the development of open source and free software license programs.” Pretty good idea, right? At least it is until you discover that the maximum tax credit is $200, or less than the cost of one Microsoft Office license. As firms grapple with how to make open source pay, it’ll be fascinating to see what role government plays. One of the state senators behind the New York bill says its purpose is to encourage innovation. That’s great, but with a $200 cap, this bill seems more symbolic than real.

Uber: I Can Change
Last week in this space, we ran some evidence that Uber is growing up. Here’s some more. In the wake of Boston’s ending its late-night subway service this past weekend, Uber has a plan to prevent cost-conscious late-night riders from being stranded: $5 flat fares between T stations after hours. It’s only planned for four weekends, but it’s a chance for the company to help out during a transition and embed itself more deeply into the community and the region’s existing transportation system.

Photo: ibmphoto24

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