Writer Anna Wiener won the Internet this week with a wonderful essay about working for a Bay Area startup. Some passages:
We get ourselves out of the office and into a bar. We have more in common than our grievances, but we kick off by speculating about our job security, complaining about the bureaucratic double-downs, casting blame for blocks and poor product decisions. We talk about our IPO like it’s the deus ex machina coming down from on high to save us — like it’s an inevitability, like our stock options will lift us out of our existential dread, away from the collective anxiety that ebbs and flows.
On emails from recruiters:
Sometimes I forget I’m not applying to summer camp. Customized setup: design your ultimate work station with the latest hardware. Change the world around you. Help humanity thrive by enabling — next! We work hard, we laugh hard, we give great high-fives. We have engineers in TopCoder’s Top 20. We’re not just another social web app. We’re not just another project-management tool. We’re not just another payment processor. I get a haircut and start exploring.
On an uncomfortable interview:
Then he tells me that his girlfriend is applying to law school and he’s been helping her prep. So instead of a conventional interview, he’s just going to have me take a section of the LSAT. I search his face to see if he’s kidding.
“If it’s cool with you, I’m just going to hang out here and check my email,” he says, sliding the test across the table and opening a laptop. He sets a timer.
After finding a coworker crying in the bathroom:
“I just hope this is all worth it,” she spits in my direction. I know what she means — she’s talking about money — but I also know how much equity she has, and I’m confident that even in the best possible scenario, whatever she’s experiencing is definitely not. She’s out the door and back at her desk before I can conjure up something consoling.
I could go on; Wiener’s essay might be the best synopsis to date of what life is like in Silicon Valley and Bay Area. For readers in the mellower Seattle area, this story can be read one of two ways: A commentary on why it’s better and easier to work in Seattle, or a warning of what’s to come as companies and people migrate north from the Bay Area.
Wiener’s startupland is confusing (“It’s not clear whether I’m here for lunch or an interview, which is normal”), self-aggrandizing (“Most start-up offices … [remind] me of the people who dressed like Michael Jackson to attend Michael Jackson’s funeral”), and so desperate to be different that it becomes its own cliche (“There’s no menu … you tell the bartender three adjectives, and he’ll customize a drink for you”).
Some people have told me Seattle will never be that way; others have told me Seattle needs to be more like the Bay Area. Either way, Wiener’s essay highlights some facets of Valley life that already take place up here, and offers a foreshadowing of some that will surely migrate north.
Struggling with VR? HTC will help.
HTC collaborated with Valve to make the Vive, a room-scale VR headset that is arguably the most advanced on the market. But there isn’t a whole lot of stuff available for VR headsets, so HTC is throwing $100 million at the problem.
In a bid to improve the available content, HTC started an accelerator program for VR startups. Many headset makers feel the available content doesn’t maximize the hardware’s potential; indeed, nobody yet knows how to make a great, say, VR movie. If good, usable VR content doesn’t emerge, then consumers won’t have much need for the Vive or any other headset.
New Mariners owner
If you define baseball success as having an MLB team in your city, then Nintendo of America’s ownership and Howard Lincoln’s stint as CEO was great — the group kept the Mariners from relocating to Florida in the early 1990s.
By any other metric — say, wins — Lincoln wasn’t so great; the Mariners haven’t been to the playoffs in a league-leading 14 seasons. So Seattle sports fans weren’t too disappointed when news broke this week that Nintendo was selling the team to a group led by former McCaw Wireless exec John Stanton, who will take over as CEO.
The transfer of the Mariners from Nintendo to Stanton’s group was a streamlined one, which is good for baseball fans — had the $1.4 billion deal buckled, Nintendo would have opened up the team to bidders, including those outside the Seattle area.
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