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Michael Moritz: Silicon Valley Would Be Wise to Follow China's Lead (theoutline.com)
48 points by jkuria on Jan 20, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 55 comments



At some point though money ends up being a means to obtain a standard of living / a world worth living in. There is no point earning money if you never spend it to get something you want.

Money also takes precious time and opportunity to earn. Know what you want and aim for it asap. All the money in the world won't buy you fond memories of an adventurous youth if you spent all of your teens, 20s and 30s slaving away for currency that can be inflated to nothingness over time. All the money in the world won't save you if you end up accepting a totalitarian world where you or your loved ones can be cast away by armed police or where making one-too-many Taiwanese friends endangers your social standing.


In Germany there is a push for 6-hour workdays, yet on the other side of the Atlantic the trends seem to be opposite. Hey human, the only reason for your existence is to work! Now stop thinking about it, work yourself to death, so that VCs can scrap more money off you. You know, that Lambo my daugther destroyed after 2 days costs something!

Seriously, you see workers dying at work in China weekly from exhaustion; due to their cultural and political repression they have to stick with it; now what does that say about people in the West calling for the same?


> workers dying at work in China weekly from exhaustion

I don't think they were better off before China turned to capitalism. Colonial Americans also pretty much worked themselves to death (according to archaeological evidence). Things got steadily better as the industrial revolution took hold.


You know, I feel like a huge part of this is just founder motivation. I don't agree with Mike's assertions. But I can understand reasons why an article like this might actually be productive, though it feels a little tone deaf.

I'm not sure if this thinkpiece is really meant for Silicon Valley employees. I think the goal (conscious or otherwise) is to inspire and align incoming or yet-to-prove-themselves Sequoia-backed founders. I expect the veteran Sequoia founders (some of them which treat their employees tremendously well and fairly) will take this advice a little more lightly: they understand how to motivate and get the most out their employees far better than Mike Moritz does and it's certainly not by saying, "work harder because of China and reasons also your happiness means nothing to us muahahah."

But the subtext here is: if you're a founder looking for an investment from Sequoia, China is in play in a big way, and you'd do well to follow their lead. Founders intentionally burn the midnight oil and give up their lives to pursue a dream or vision, and willingly sacrifice a large chunk of their careers to generate returns for their investors with the understanding that this is how you play in the big leagues. The coach says "jump" and you ask "how high?"

There's a big kerfuffle raised, this article gets blasted around tech circles, every founder reads it, and the point gets made. The implication is that if you don't want to work harder than you've worked in your life, don't think about Sequoia money. Whether that's the reality of actually working with Sequoia or not is immaterial, there's a cult of personality and a commitment. Some part of me believes (maybe naively) that 10/10 times Mike Moritz would prefer the balanced, brilliant strategist and product founders who keep fit and still work a solid work-week to the narcissists willing to burn themselves out being easily manipulated by an article like this. My impression is that's all this is - a filter.

I could be wrong, but we don't need to manufacture outrage here. VC gonna VC. Maybe this is a tone deaf opinion piece, or maybe in the current bull market of (potentially irrational) exuberance, Mike feels the need to make this assertion to new and upcoming founders to keep them aligned, public image be damned. Employees say, "hogwash" but if a founder puts in even an extra 2%, that's going to be have multiplicative effects. The founders willing to burn their teams out will fail quickly and be selected against.

If you work for a Sequoia-backed company and this is concerning to you (or you feel like you're being burned out), ask your founder(s) their opinion and voice concerns. VCs don't make the decisions at the end of the day, the CEO does, and you likely joined your company for a reason and trust your CEO: they're human beings, they're responsible for your wellbeing, a good CEO will keep your best interests in mind as best they can.

(That said, maybe I'm reading too much into it and it's just a poorly timed opinion piece. Either way. Bring up concerns with your founders if you're worried. Not sure we need to run the outrage train on the age-old story of "VCs expect founders to work hard.")


All: this sort of "We’ve interpreted what he’s really saying" riler-upper is off topic for HN. Please don't post those here.

To see why, read https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html. The purpose of HN to gratify intellectual curiosity. I'm impressed that a number of users responded to this post in that spirit, but that's unusual. In general, internet rage is a self-licking ice cream cone, and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16194750 is far more typical.


Daniel, this is just my opinion, but I'm not sure if it was fair for you to take this down / flag it. I understand your concerns, but maybe give this one a pass?

This is obviously a controversial topic. You say you're impressed with how people have responded - why not let "the market" sort itself out? Mike is a very influential figure in SV, and it might be good for the community as a whole to air their grievances and try and work out how they themselves feel about the issue, and broader implications about the world of VC and how it interplays with companies, founders and employees. I worry that by moderating this HN is artificially contributing to the echo chamber here; flagging this post doesn't remove the Facebook posts and Tweets proclaiming the evils of VC without room for discussion.


People are welcome to discuss the Moritz piece if they think it's important, though even there I'm skeptical; the thread would likely just be the usual reiterations of the usual. But to post it through a rage filter like this is just off topic for HN, for two reasons: (1) starting off with indignation is statistically guaranteed to produce flamewars and other junk, and (2) this genre is a internet cliché. From long experience we know that if HN is to have a solid discussion on a divisive topic, the starting point can't be something as shallow as this. There's also the site guidelines, which ask: Please submit the original source. If a post reports on something found on another site, submit the latter.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Thanks for the response. My concern is this; I've seen a few posts by friends, colleagues, etc. lambasting Mike's piece. My co-founder and employees read it and we had an earnest discussion about it. We all burn the midnight oil in pursuit of our vision, but it opened up important distinctions between risk-adjusted compensation and expectations now vs. as the company matures, as well as how we manage customer, VC and employee expectations and keep each other healthy and happy.

Given the right framing, I think it's possible to turn "outrage" pieces into thoughtful discussion pieces and examine the intricacies of why individuals may have certain opinions or behave certain ways. Facebook and Twitter aren't great mediums; Twitter is practically an outrage-manufacturing hot-take machine and Facebook is restrictive in content distribution. I guess part of me just wonders if by silencing outrage we're actually helping it proliferate in other mediums - that emotional energy has to dissipate somewhere.

Edit: Saw your edit with link to guidelines afterwards. I understand completely. Given this is a hot-button topic I guess I was supposing this might be a good opportunity to let people air out concerns, but I also understand the need to be consistent in enforcement. Cheers!


I have no quarrel with what you're saying. Why don't you submit the original article and then post a version of your comments in this thread as a first comment to that one? This may help to seed good discussion. If it turns into a flamewar we can always deal with that later.


Thank you for the offer! We're in the midst of helping students during a 36 hour Hackathon. This was a nice distraction, I thought it might be productive to discuss here but don't know if I want to deal with the ownership of an entire thread right now. :)


On the ycombinator thought exchange, it makes sense that satirical posts like these in general are frowned/flagged/weighted down upon (ignoring anecdotes of subjective good and bad discourse on such) like how during the the heat of the GFC some exchanges rolled back unprofitable trades of those who did the most volume on their exchanges.

When the topic of such posts probably have a > 0 percent stake in YC companies, such actions from mods is only to be expected to some degree.


We moderate HN less, not more, when YC or YC startups are involved. This is literally the first rule of HN moderation and I've posted about it a ton over the years.

https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%20yc%20less%20not%20mo...


Somehow, I find it hard to accept that YC and their stakeholders/agents can completely avoid the human biases that also affect every organization to some degree.

Linking to posts where you say "less not more" is much different then say, getting the flag/weighting factor data on every post, and running a classifier that segments out YC affiliated ones from ones that are not, and there being a statistical representation of your assertion.

But like I've said to some degree before, your forum, your rules :)


That's fair. I'd never claim to be immune from unconscious bias. But we do have a rule to help us mitigate it, and a lot of practice applying it. It's the first thing pg explained to me about HN moderation—before I could grab a chair, even—and the first thing I've explained to every moderator since.

There's a deeper issue too. We don't think about HN in terms of furthering YC's immediate interests. Nothing could be dumber, because the community would notice immediately—in Monty Python's classic phrase, "God would see through a cheap ploy like that". We just think about how to make HN more interesting. That's how to make it more valuable—including its hard business value. I wrote about this here too: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16019486

Of course we use 'interesting' in a somewhat specialized way, and no community of this size can ever be entirely pleased, as people differ in what interests them. But if we moderate a post like the OP, it isn't because of an opinion about venture capital or China or workers or whatever. It's because of what counts as interesting on HN, and what we know from experience adds or detracts from it.


I debated if I should post it after failing to get a non-pay-walled link to the original post on Financial Times. I figured that since they quote him and are clear they are interpreting then it is okay.

By the way, why do I get less than half the karma points my contributions get? I am a long time quality contributor. Why am I getting penalized?


It's true that FT's paywall prevents its articles from being accessible here, which is bad and contradicts what https://news.ycombinator.com/newsfaq.html says. In practice, though, people usually post workarounds in the threads.

Not all votes on submissions count towards karma because of HN's anti-gaming software, which has measures to prevent karma-building rings and whatnot. You're not treated differently from any other user.


This concept doesn't pass much intellectual muster and does a disservice to your readers / users. Do you really believe that thoughtful satire cannot produce intelligent conversation?


There is always a backlash.

Those kids growing up with absent parents are going to have some psychological problems and some desires in common. The US had its "greatest generation", followed by their children, the boomers; China will not escape that cycle. Despite their cultural isolation and the Great Firewall, they will have a generation that will want to live very differently from their parents.

There's no denying China's incredible growth over the last couple of decades, but there's an excellent debate to be had about the long-term effects of that growth.

Of course, VC's aren't known for their long-term thinking.


Yes, so that they can accumulate wealth, so that they can build a safety net, welfare, better education, freedom of speech, so that they finally can start working less in maybe 10 years.

Working so much loses its importance once your country already has those things, because it burns an entire generation, where people aren't humans, but just working machines.

Another really short sighted article by a very very smart VC.


> Beyond the week-long breaks for Chinese new year and the October national holiday, most will just steal an additional handful of vacation days.

Wow.


As always there is some truth from his piece. What would SV do, when their competing edge is waning? How do SV keep its perks when employers discover they can do the same thing elsewhere with less money? The realization should be, software is not a novel technique it uses to be, more people and more countries can do it now possibly cheaper. To justify the money, SV needs to do better. Whether it is to take the perks away and work longer, or find a new competing edge, only time would tell.



This guy has never created anything.


Tweetstorm by David Heinemeier Hansson: https://twitter.com/dhh/status/954319522151976960


No need to read it - you know what it says


Michael Moritz would be wise to stay in China since it's so damned awesome.


Sequoia has been in China for more than a decade ...


Is it satire?


The piece linked to here is my annotation on a very real post by Michael Moritz. Yes, my take is... a form of satire.


Look at this Steve Jobs wannabe wanker: https://gigaom.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/1/2011/11/1z5o52...


Personal attacks will get you banned here. You may not owe anything to that guy but you owe much better to the community if you want to keep commenting here.


He is a public figure.

Edit: Also, please don't ban me.

Edit: I will refrain from future attacks in return for not being banned.


Sure, if you'll follow the site guidelines at https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html, we won't ban you. The basic idea is: if you have a substantive point to make, make it thoughtfully; if you don't, please don't comment until you do.

(Public figure doesn't enter into it, btw, because the issue is the effect of such posts on the community here.)


Money is power for stupid people.


It’s also a power multiplier for intelligent people.


Multiplying by 0 is still 0.


I can see why people hate on this POV, but one thing is very reasonable:

Imagine company A and company B are equal in all ways, except company B's workers work twice as much. If they come into competition, company A will be crushed.

All the SF tech companies will come into competition with Chinese companies in the next 20 years. And there's a chance they just get outworked.


This was the line in the 80s about japan. Didn’t actually work out like that. Edit: typo


True. Because everything else wasn't equal. And it won't be here. But if it gets close to equal ...

I imagine Chinese work ethic had something to do with the destruction of the Rust Belt, no?


Working 14-hour Days is not efficient. It is performative and counterproductive. Especially for 15 years. I doubt the entire narrative. And Chinese labor has certainly hollowed out the rust belt but that’s more about arbitrage than work ethic. We have tons of things to learn from China, but worship of long hours is not one of them.


Work ethic doesn't matter much if one workforce works for a tenth of the wages of the other.


And this explains Africa's dominance of the world economy?


Except "work twice as much" is a very vague term. Do they work twice as long? Do they have twice the amount of resources? What is the value of their output - is it twice higher than A? For how long do they work "twice as much" before burnout and overwork deaths happen like in Japan?

In Japan it is well-known that a long-hours work culture doesn't translate to actual productive work. People end up being masters of "looking productive" rather than actually being productive.


I'm deliberately being vague for the sake of argument. Of course there are many details in practice.

A similar argument applies to the economies of Europe and the USA in parts the 20th century. A lot was similar, but Americans had the better work ethic.

Of course, work ethic doesn't explain everything. But it's really freaking important.


Which part of 20th century was the same for Europe except work ethics? America did not had two world wars on its soil, that alone will make majority of that century different.


I can't find any evidence from 20th century, but here's a study from 2016: http://ftp.iza.org/dp10179.pdf

It says Americans work 25% more. This is usually the conclusion of this kind of thing.


That is account of worked hours, not that everything except worked hours was same on 20th century - which is what I found suspicious.

I agree that Americans on average spend more time in work.

More conrroversially, I also think that the notion of work ethics should count in also what you do at work and crunch stories about people sleeping under table should not count as better work ethics. E.g. more hours less effectively is not better work ethics. (That is not to imply American companies are less effective per hour, I don't think that is the case.)


Working 16 hours a day does not give enough time for eating, shovering and sleeping. So assuming A works full time and B twice as much, B are making all decisions sleep deprived and in cruck mode. I have seen crunch modes and they are less effective after few weeks.


> I have seen crunch modes and they are less effective after few weeks.

This was studied extensively in WW2 where people wanted to work long hours to win the war. Productivity would rise when hours rose, and after a few weeks it would fall below that of a 40 hr week. The solution was to do longer hours in spurts.

This knowledge gets lost regularly and rediscovered.


Setting aside that I find it rather dubious that more hours worked is being equated to more profit/gdp/productivity, if/when the chinese economy becomes a net global importer, then I'd be more interested in this line of reasoning.


Fair.

I became interested when this happened: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/f8/18/f8/f818f8735acfdbf8f4a6...


Interestingly enough, GDP per capita for China at PPP, for 2017, is around $16,676 (in 2017 Intl dollars[0]).

[0] http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2017/01/weodata/weor...


Which means they are still basically farmers and just getting started.


Not quite related, but I'd have to say, I'm interested to see where their oil futures market goes, though I suspect most won't have much confidence in it unless they float the yuan.


Not true. Work smart, not hard.




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