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Breaking: Guy Works from Home, Cooks Himself Breakfast (Or “A Response to Chris Dixon on Startups and Journalism”)

startup guy cooks startup breakfast Breaking: Guy Works from Home, Cooks Himself Breakfast (Or A Response to Chris Dixon on Startups and Journalism)

Via Business Insider.

Maybe you’ve heard of (Harlem) startup PolicyMic, the startup most famous for:

- Having a former Goldman Sachs trader who quit his job venture into StartupLand,
- Being a fancy politics forum where the ability to speak is doled out in a currency of “Mics,”
- Having contributors like Condoleezza Rice, and especially,
- Being based out of Harlem. Harlem! How utterly progressive/gentrification-forward!

Well, Business Insider has finally cracked the largest story on (Harlem) startup PolicyMic basically ever. Are you ready?

Boom:

 
Besides the obvious line of inquiry along the lines of

How does this differentiate these people from anybody else in the universe?

And the subsequent follow-up of

Why are we calling the company of a guy who lives in Harlem and works from home a ‘Harlem’-based startup?

And the finisher:

Why does anybody even remotely care about where a startup is based unless you’re a blogger biting on a particularly petty and stupid press line?

There’s also the post-mortem of:

Is this really what people reading startup coverage want to read about, and why?

You won’t find the answer here. Truly. These aren’t rhetorical questions. We’re genuinely curious.

There’s an argument to made for telling the human story of startups; fair enough. But there’s also an argument to be made against the kind of tech coverage that feeds into the narcissism and press lines which, at best, results in favor-trading for scooplets that are essentially press releases said line-toer gets before anyone else, and at worse, simply shills sans-skepticism for an industry that could use some more.

Chris Dixon recently kvetched to Twitter that “people who’ve never started companies (e.g. certain journalists) or have no business criticizing startups.”

This logic, as a reminder, works like this:

People who have never __________ed (e.g. certain [FILL IN ANY CONSTITUENCY SKEPTICAL OF _________]) have no business criticizing _________s.

It could be applied in a number of ways. This is fun! Try it. For example:

  • “People who have never written public policy (e.g. welfare recipients) have no business criticizing public policy.”
  • “People who have never worked for an investment bank (e.g. SEC regulators)  have no business criticizing investment banks.”
  • “People who have never worked for McDonald’s (e.g. nutrionists) have no business criticizing McDonald’s.”

 
Sorry, but new ventures started by bright, young, hardworking ambitious people deserve to be approached with the same amount of skepticism as multinational corporations. Their stories, accomplishments, and failures deserve to be told in the same way. Reminder: Journalism as the fourth estate is a check on powers both private and public, and if you think it’s not important that we not understand the humble and not-so-powerful beginnings of anything—let alone startups—think again. All the companies on the S & P 500 started out as small, bootstrapped businesses at one time or another, too. Including Google, who knows everything about you. Don’t you want to know everything about them? To be fair, Mr. Dixon clarified that he’s especially conspiratorial about journalists who work for companies with competing interests, but what multinational corporation with a news branch has a direct competing interest against a tech startup? (Sure, maybe News Corp., but all their startups seem to flop.)

That said, if you want to see the results of journalists who have never worked at startups who don’t criticize startups, all you need to do is click over to Business Insider and watch some revolutionary “Harlem” startup wake up, cook themselves breakfast, and score some friendly press. They live in Harlem. That’s not even an office. It’s just some guy’s fucking apartment.

[N.B. Because Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider—a four year-old company—is upset about my generalization of Business Insider, to be clear, (A) it was more in regards to journalists skeptical of tech startups and not media startups, and (B) we've praised other pieces of their work before, and singled out Mr. Weisenthal's work in particular. He's also, for the record, not the writer who put together a slideshow about a guy cooking breakfast. So there's that.]

fkamer@observer.com | @weareyourfek

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Comments

  1. Matt Straz says:

    I think there’s a balance that needs to be struck here.

    1. Startups that raise an excessive amount of money before having a product or customers deserve a fair amount of scrutiny. They are potentially taking dollars that could be used to seed or fund other worthwhile startups.

    2. Startups (and the VC firms that fund them) where there is something unethical or controversial core to their business model also deserve special scrutiny.

    If a startup fits neither scenario then the most powerful thing the press can do is simply ignore them.