Why the "smartest people in the room" aren't
On the deification of the tech founder and the confusion of confidence with competence
In this week’s column for the WSJ I went old school (the lede originally had the word “shibboleth” in it until my editor wisely nixed it) and compared Elon Musk, Sam Bankman-Fried and Mark Zuckerberg to the god-emperors of times past:
The tl;dr is that tech, like most other human endeavors, is a team sport, everyone needs to be called on their bullshit regularly, and yet the system we’ve created to deify and coddle the leaders of many tech companies insulates them from honest feedback and even straightforward market signals like, say, running out of money.
I have written about this before – back then it was Travis Kalanick and Elizabeth Holmes in the starring roles – and yet here we are. Nothing changes until one day it does, I suppose.
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Reader question for the week
Do you think that the “Tech Winter” that we have recently entered will do anything to erode the “cult of the founder” – or are we doomed to years more of SBF- and Holmes-type fraudsters, questionable decisions by existing founder-CEOs with no real checks on their power (e.g. Zuckerberg and Musk)?
Or do you find the entire premise of this question risible?
Feel free to leave your response below, in the comments, for all to see, or to email me directly – all WSJ journos have a link to their email right there in our bios.