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Silicon Valley Returns to ‘Bro’ Culture

SAN FRANCISCO — Last month, Mark Zuckerberg spent hours promoting his love of jiujitsu, wrestling and the UFC at Joe Rogan’s. podcast, who is known for his hypermasculinity. Watching TV wasn’t active enough, Mr. Zuckerberg said. Compared to social media, television was “beta.”

Elon Musk, who signed a deal to buy Twitter apparently on a whim and is now headed to court because he wants to back out of the purchase, has released “debate me brother” mocks the Twitter CEO between giving advice on intermittent fasting and worrying about the population collapsing.

And Marc Andreessen, the high-profile tech investor, recently opposed a plan to build multifamily housing in the Silicon Valley town where he lives and then announced his latest and biggest deal: a new residential real estate venture run by Adam Neumann. , the entrepreneur who notoriously incinerated billions of dollars worth of value at WeWork.

His actions seemed designed for the ultimate outrage. Does Zuck like to fight with his friends? Does Elon think he’s above the law? Andreessen entrusted that businessman with how much money?

Tech’s most powerful elite seems to be taking on a new tone lately. It’s more openly defiant, combative, and a change from just a few years ago, when the industry was rocked by revelations about its “bro” culture.

Beginning in 2017, a series of reports revealed Silicon Valley’s rampant harassment, discrimination, and culture of silence and deals. Powerful investors and executives were accused during #MeToo. A book titled “Brotopia” by journalist Emily Chang methodically outlined the deep-seated sexism in the tech industry, connecting history lessons with today’s grim reporting of diversity.

Industry leaders at least tried to appear as though they were making an effort to dismantle systems that had concentrated power in the hands of a few white men. Given how embedded technology companies and their products were in people’s lives, it was felt urgent to address the disparities and issues between those who create them. So they made promises, promoted some women and donated money.

There have been some advances, including more women writing checks at venture capital firms and leading multi-billion dollar startups. all raisean advocacy group for women in tech, was featured on the cover of Forbes in 2018.

“We made a little bit of progress, but I feel like it was almost a red herring,” said Christie Pitts, an investor at Backstage Capital, a venture capital firm. Now “there is definitely a sense of recidivism.”

Two parallel Silicon Valleys have emerged. There’s Twitter’s ThunderDome, where tech thought leaders collect likes by posting edgy memes and yelling political takeovers, then invoke cancel culture when criticized. They work their way up to $44bn impulsive buyouts, and then walk away. They promote a completely online existence within the so-called metaverse.

Then there is the day-to-day reality, where women still get just 2 percent of venture capital funding and Black founders get 1 percentwhere the biggest tech companies have made negligible progress in diversifying their workforce, and where harassment and discrimination remain common.

Last month, Estelle McGechie, the former CEO of Atomos, accused the electronics company of gender discrimination and retaliation. She said that she had been fired from her after alerting the company’s board of directors about a fraud. This month, a Vox report on sexual assault and silencing of victims at Launch House, a hack house backed by Andreessen’s firm, went largely unnoticed by the tech industry’s most prominent voices.

Then Verkada, a security startup that has faced accusations of harassment of workers and lax internal controls over access to its surveillance tools, raised $205 million from major venture firms. And Shervin Pishevar, a venture capitalist who was accused of sexual misconduct by five women in 2017, resurfaced as an executive at Kanye West’s company, Yeezy.

Just question whether the industry can change.

“As far as I can tell, there will never be consequences for men,” said Ms. Pitts. “It’s discouraging.”

The executive director of Launch House responded to the Vox article with a blog post this month, apologizing for the company’s past security issues. Verkada said she had learned from previous incidents and had “clear protocols, training and people focused on addressing issues related to sexism and harassment.” Atomos said in a statement that Ms McGechie’s claims were baseless. Mr. Pishevar did not respond to a request for comment.

Musk’s successful Twitter deal underscores how the tech industry still functions like an old men’s club. The billionaire is part of the “PayPal mob,” a group of founders and early employees of the digital payments company, many of whom have had even bigger successes in technology.

Their successes are often interconnected. Those in the group invest or join each other’s companies and firms, keeping things, as the mob says, in the family. an infamous fortune photo of men in 2007 dressed as mafia gangsters does not position the tech industry as welcoming to outsiders.

“This is all about self-selection by people like you,” Max Levchin, a member of the PayPal mob, told Fortune at the time. the 2007 Article contained a mention of a woman; Mr. Levchin said that he had hired her even though she was bad at table tennis, which showed a lack of competitiveness. She resigned months later.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Levchin pointed a instances has supported diversity, including leading a Industry push for anti-discrimination laws.

When Musk recruited investors to help him with his Twitter deal this year, he reached out to many of those friends or their companies. Sequoia Capital, where fellow PayPal mobster Roelof Botha is a leader, put up $800 million. DFJ Growth, a firm that has invested in Musk’s companies including Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity, added $100 million.

Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle who sits on the Tesla board and has said he was “very close friends” with Mr. Musk, also contributed a billion dollars. Andreessen’s firm, Andreessen Horowitz, invested $400 million.

“Women don’t have the kind of deep, enduring networks that these men have,” said Taryn Langer, founder of Moxie Communications Group, which works in public relations with founders and venture firms. “There’s definitely the boys’ club that still exists.”

Other members of the PayPal mob, including David Sacks and Joe Lonsdale, received subpoenas for their text messages with Musk about their Twitter deal, which is now tied up in court. They were quick to express their displeasure about it, sharing memes on Twitter and calling the citations “harassment” on TV. Musk has also fought against the exposure of his private communications through his lawyers.

At the same time, women who work at SpaceX, Musk’s space company, have filed multiple complaints of harassment and retaliation over the past year.

In May, Insider reported that Musk paid a settlement to a flight attendant who had accused him of sexual misconduct, act that he denied. After the report said that Musk had offered to buy a horse from the assistant in exchange for an erotic massage, Chad Hurley, one of the founders of YouTube and a member of the PayPal mob, wrote on Twitter that Musk should “stop play and close”. this Twitter deal” because “we all want a happy ending.”

mr musk answered, “Well, if you touch my sausage, you can have a horse.” He has also asked his followers if Twitter should “remove the w” from his name and He suggested start a university called “Texas Institute of Technology and Science” for its “epic merchandise” which would presumably present the acronym of the institution.

An attorney for Musk did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Andreessen’s firm has $35 billion under management. He has tweeted about blocking people whose opinions he doesn’t like, directed dissenting memes at the likes of Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, and criticized those who support “the current”, or popular causes. In addition to a board position at Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, Mr. Andreessen will join the board of directors at Flow, Mr. Neumann’s real estate startup.

When the Flow deal was announced last month, it drew skepticism from those who doubted Neumann’s business acumen after WeWork’s disastrous collapse. But it also sparked outrage among women and people of color who saw a man get a lavish second chance when they had to fight for scraps to get a first chance.

An Andreessen Horowitz spokeswoman declined to comment. Meta did not respond to a request for comment.

The $350 million invested by Andreessen Horowitz (the company’s largest single check) valued the yet-to-be-released flow at $1 billion.

Diana Lee, co-founder of ad-tech firm Constellation, said she had to fight for a fair valuation for her company showing investors 80 percent annual growth, hundreds of clients and steady profits. Regarding Mr. Neumann’s fundraising, she said: “The execution hasn’t happened yet. He comes out and it’s $1 billion.”

The tech industry’s lack of consequence even inspired Billy McFarland, the convicted con man behind the Fyre Festival, the floundering luxury music festival of 2017. McFarland recently got out of jail with plans to return to tech. He said that he was confident that he would find support.

“The way I failed is totally wrong,” he said. “But in a sense, failure is okay in entrepreneurship.”


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