I had to unsubscribe from Laughing Squid and Valleywag for a while- I realized that despite writing two novels that lambasted a certain attitude expressed inside- if you notice most of my evil murderers/serial killers are tech journalists- I still had a weird hang-up about it. Laughing Squid is more of a social photo reporter of that same set of Dot Com success stories. Like, finding out all the parties you’re not invited to. It’s not all about sour grapes, though. Because I understood the feeling when I read a non-depressing success story: Saul Griffith, winner of a MacArthur Genius Grant, another grant from Google. He’s profiled in this SF Chron’s Faces of Business series.
So more about me, I grew up in Silicon Valley witnessing, and working at (and my sisters, brother and mother working at) a slew of startups that failed. Some were good, some were bad. When reading Valleywag and seeing little wondrous Web2.0 celebrities, whether it’s their fame or money, all of those memories return- not the happy singular successes, but the massive amounts of time spent slogging away at crappy companies. Nobody really tells the story of all of those failures. Greed, diligence, and mediocrity. Reading stories in Valleywag about know-nothings, or OK but not Great, or just “random people I’ve met at parties” flying away in Lear Jets and having flash mob weddings, well, it makes me feel like we’re in a world where the Internet adds this special gold glitter glue to rather normal, uninspiring things. It’s depressing. Sure, I’m glad that they can indulge their childlike wants and needs and get compensated for the ideas and work they had. But aren’t there more inspiring stories out there? What about the 9,999,9999 failed companies? Are there really no true winners? Is it all the strange business formula of money, timing and hype?
I think what struck me about Saul’s story, was that he has a unique intersection of talents, and he’s working towards a better world. He has a sense of humor, and he talks about dumpster diving, and his random business ideas all have a humanist bent: cheap optical lenses for third world countries, new ideas for renewable energy. And when you think of these ideas, it’s not like “wow he’s leveraging syndicated content/tapping into user created data/creating peer to peer networks” but “what an interesting way to think.” It makes me proud of our entrepreneurial, digital generation (and environment). He also won 3rd place in the Sound of Music sing-a-long, which I find truly admirable.