Valley Voice
Grow up, Silicon Valley!

Many tech-entrepreneurs cannot bear it when their company is criticized. Everybody prefers to say how “amaaazing” everything is although that is definitely not true. Is Silicon Valley still living in kindergarten?
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We all know the situation from kindergarten. There is this other child in the sandbox. You are both building a castle. Yours looks creepy as ever, because you are not talented at all. Your fellow however really got it, his statue convinces at first sight.

You’ve already accepted your inferiority when your kindergarten teacher arrives. In spite of the expectations and against all logic she starts talking about how well both of you did. “Amaaazing!”

That is obviously a huge lie. The kindergarten teacher knows it, your playmate knows it, you know it. But you are not supposed to tell. Because the truth can hurt feelings. So better be excited or no picture for you today.
The sandbox parable is exactly how Silicon Valley works. People cannot bear being criticized, their company, worse when you are a journalist. Everybody prefers to say how “amaaazing” everything is although we all know that we do not live in kindergarten anymore – or are we?

Google and Facebook pick up employees from their front porches, drive them to work, cook for them, wash their clothes – isn’t that what mummy used to do when we were kindergarteners?

“You know how it works here”, an executive from a billion dollar startup told me recently. “People are always nice in Silicon Valley”. Another entrepreneur just told me he would only do “nice” and “uncontroversial” interviews. The third even suggested I should consider an anger-management class. Well.

I know, Germans are so “amaaazingly” negative. Silicon Valley could never happen in Berlin. It is a great euphoria that drives tech-companies here and the certain belief that they will make it one day.

Euphoria is useful. I’m euphoric myself from time to time, like last Monday between 8 and 10 am. But just euphoria, unreflected and without question, means nothing more than naiveté. Silicon Valley needs this special euphoric naiveté for sure, but it also needs to face the truth and its critics. That is what distinguishes you from just being a kindergartener. It’s the moment you finally grow up.

Es gibt auch eine deutsche Version dieser Kolumne.

Britta Weddeling is a technology journalist with Handelsblatt, Germany's #1 business daily, and Wired, based in San Francisco. She is author of a weekly English tech column called "Valley Voice" and contributes every week to a podcast at a major German radio station (Deutschlandradio,"Was mit Medien").

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