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Something is rotten in the Silicon Valley now

NEW YORK: Silicon Valley is the story of overthrowing entrenched interests through innovation. Children dream of becoming inventors, and scientists come to Silicon Valley from all over the world.

But something is wrong when Juicero and Theranos are in the headlines, and bad behaviour from Uber executives overshadows actual innovation. $120 million in venture funding from Google Ventures and Kleiner Perkins, for a juicer? And the founder, Doug Evans, calling himself Steve Jobs, “in his pursuit of juicing perfection?” And how is Theranos’s Elizabeth Holmes walking around freely?

These stories are embarrassing, yes. But there’s something deeper going on here. Silicon Valley, an international treasure that birthed the technology of our age, is being destroyed.

Monopolies are now so powerful that they dictate the roll-out of new technology, and the only things left to invest in are the scraps that fall off the table.

Sometimes those scraps are Snapchat, which managed to keep alive, despite what Ben Thompson calls ‘theft’ by Facebook. Sometimes it’s Diapers.com, which was destroyed and bought out by Amazon through predatory pricing.And sometimes it’s Juicero and Theranos.

It’s not that Juicero and Theranos that are the problem. Mistakes -even really big, stupid ones -happen.

In the 1960s and 1970s, an antitrust suit against IBM caused the company to unbundle its hardware and software, leading to the creation of the American software industry. It treated suppliers for its new personal computing business with kid gloves, including a small company called Microsoft.

In the 1990s, a suit against Microsoft allowed another startup named Google to offer an innovative search engine and ad business without fear that Microsoft would use its control of the browser to strangle it. The great business historian Alfred Chandler, in his book on the electronic century, called antitrust regulators the “Gods“ of creation.

What once were upstarts and innovators are now enthroned. For instance, the iPhone is ten years old. Innovation means waiting to see if Apple will offer a bigger screen.


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