Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
[flagged] Fuck You Startup World (2016) (medium.com)
129 points by personjerry 3 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 57 comments





At least here in Germany, this culture seems to be over. It was declining and after Corona, it has changed completely. More and more smaller companies also value that you have family, friends and social life and home office becomes a normal thing, thanks god.

But I agree with a lot of these points after working 5 years in a startup. The biggest problem is that you try to increase your runway even though the business model does not seem to work. Instead of making it profitable as soon as possible, you try to grow and grow and hire people you don't even need. This was the worst experience. And then letting those people go again is even worse.

I hope that we get back to the ground and try to build solid and profitable business in the future instead of blown up air castles with no value at all.


This is probably going to earn me a mountain of downvotes and rebukes (all of which I welcome so that I can learn!), but here goes nothing...

I'm fairly convinced that a lot of technical people are on the spectrum. I don't mean this as an insult in any way whatsoever, though I'm sure many will take it as such (sorry, in advance!). The raw, calculative persona of those described as "10x developers" and "optimize all minutiae" seems to line up with having difficulty empathizing with others and acknowledging emotions. In many ways, I really envy the ability to execute to that degree. Simultaneously, I think these are many of the same people who are taken advantage of by others (e.g. founders, managers, investors) to further deepen their pockets.

They're often immensely talented in technical realms and excel in sciences, making computer science and software careers ideal places where they can thrive. Their relative over-performance creates a tension on the opposite end where others can't keep up to the same capacity. I think we've often chalked it up to people being "quirky" and I think we're all familiar with Hollywood's stereotypes about technical folk, but there is a lack of mental health discussion in the US (and perhaps other places in the west). Am I completely off-base in thinking this way? I'm certainly no psychologist, but I welcome other perspectives on this.


I think what you're describing is a bit tangential to the OP. Yes, some of what's ascribed to as "tech startup culture" can be derived from neuroatypical people, or introversion, or simply lack of social grace, but not a lot of it as described by the article.

The article talks a lot about the extroverted, obnoxious aspects of tech. Wantrepreneurs, narcissistic navel-gazing, cargo-culting, corporate faux-coolness, dick-waving. None of that is really explained by having a lot of people on the spectrum. If anything, it's similar to some of the same extravagance you see in Hollywood, Wall Street, or Washington D.C.; anywhere that has a ton of ambitious, competitive, and social signaling people.

Also, there are plenty of STEM and otherwise technical fields that do not have the same reputation for awkwardness as software engineering does. Surely those fields have plenty of single-minded overperformers as well? Then why don't we hear complaints about civil engineering or mechanical engineering or electrical engineering?

I have a couple of pet theories for why Silicon Valley or the startup world as a whole seems particularly arrogant (a culture that worships young genius ends up neglecting social development and get stuck being sophomoric; software spawns a weird exceptionalism since, unlike other engineering disciplines, devs can move the world with lines of code instead of hardware). But those are just pet theories and I think most of the issues mentioned in the OP are easily attributed to the natural consequence when an industry undergoes a gold rush AND eats the world; since it becomes a playground for the (potentially) rich and powerful, insiders tend to get extra irritating about it.


I'm fairly convinced that a lot of technical people are on the spectrum.

It's a spectrum. Everyone is on it. The majority of people are at the end where it doesn't really manifest in any significant way, but no one can claim not to be on it.


Of course they (we) are "on the spectrum". And it used to be fine- there were places for different people to excel well shielded from the others. Tech and science were always places for cold, unempathetic people more interested in things than in how others feel about them.

Until everything became a social media magma in which everyone is more interested in how much empathy you can show towards puppies than in how good you are at your job. Fuck that.

I'll say it again for clarity: tech and university used to be cosy places for unconventional people to be at their best shielded from those who mix their facts with their feelings. But now these have taken over and the feelings police is everywhere.


"nerds are socially awkward" is an observation that borders on being trite. There's a lot of truth to that of course, just because of the definition of the term "nerd". But it's something that sounds true as opposed to actually being a valid way of seeing the world.

It's like saying "athletes are dumb". There is a sort of truth to that, but anyone can easily come up a dozen counterexamples. The same is true of technical people and social skills. It can be valuable to use a short hand for personalities to quickly sort people into categories. But almost every occupation has the same general range of personality types.


> I'm fairly convinced that a lot of sports people are on the spectrum. I don't mean this as an insult in any way whatsoever, though I'm sure many will take it as such (sorry, in advance!). The raw, calculative persona of those described as "10x sportsman" and "optimize all muscleai" seems to line up with having difficulty empathizing with others and acknowledging emotions. In many ways, I really envy the ability to execute to that degree. Simultaneously, I think these are many of the same people who are taken advantage of by others (e.g. founders, managers, investors) to further deepen their pockets.

They're often immensely talented in physical realms and excel in sports, making sport careers ideal places where they can thrive. Their relative over-performance creates a tension on the opposite end where others can't keep up to the same capacity. I think we've often chalked it up to people being "quirky" and I think we're all familiar with Hollywood's stereotypes about sports folk, but there is a lack of mental health discussion in the US (and perhaps other places in the west). Am I completely off-base in thinking this way? I'm certainly no psychologist, but I welcome other perspectives on this.


The difference is sports people don't really run anything. They sport. In a closed environment.

Software and start-ups are more like having to sports whatever you do, whether you like it or not.

Buy take-out? Pick up your sportsy phone and sports the heck out of that! Don't forget to tip your driver, because he's on minimum wage.

Order an airline ticket? So fast and sportsy! OK, so someone didn't sports properly and some of these planes crashed, but let's just [cough] pretend the pilots made mistakes.

Find somewhere to stay? Your accommodation choices have been so uniformly sportsed you'll get a properly sportsed touch of local flavour, but you'll be spared any unsettling cultural surprises.

Chat to friends? We've totally sportsed that up for you!

So now everything you do has been completely sportsed by people who just love sportsing.

And this is good for you. And for everyone. And especially good for the future.

No, really, it is.


There's definitely something to what you're saying, but I think in relation to the article/discussion, it's more about young people than it is about specifically people on the spectrum.

My impression is that as programming, being nerdy, and so on, became main-stream, the target audience for the founders/managers/investors has become much broader. I know a number of decidedly non-autistic people who I feel are used by this 'startup culture' to do stuff that isn't in their own best interest.

If anything, I'd say that generally people on the spectrum would be /less/ likely to get caught up in these types of schemes. It's just that for a while in history the stuff that these people gravitated to was also the stuff that was easy to make money off.


I second that - I often felt like stuck in a hopeless competition against people who really have 100% of their mind to spare on aspects of technology while my brain is scattered all over the place with regard to interests and hobbies. How am I supposed to compete against somebody who'll happily spend his leisure time with even more coding while I can't wait to do something else for a change. And it is a competition because those people thrive on the positive feedback they get at work and crave for it with a vengeance.

You are spot on. I've said this for years. Which is why I always hire people not roles.

I think you're right. You don't necessarily have to be on the spectrum though. It is enough if you can turn your empathy off to maintain the laser focus.

Or you can be a psychopath, then you can go on to become a CEO!


I think this is a pretty popular opinion, tbh. Successful people tend to have some sort of mental disorder, or rather, advantage.

I think there is something to this. I score very high on emotional intelligence, am fashionable, do extroverted things. People like that I do these things and also have ideas that I can turn into money quickly by programming them. That I can communicate ideas to less technical people and gain supporters quickly.

I pass.

But I can detect the limits. Nobody considers me on the spectrum, nobody considers me the “asperger-y programmer”

There is some overlap with what people associate as “on the spectrum” such as not relating to many people’s emotions or reactions to things. Blending in. But for me the real flag is my experience with various drugs, my experience is often different than others and forums full of anecdotal evidence has people with similar experiences who often report having diagnosed development disorders such as ADHD, autism etc.

Anytime I bring this up “I think I’m on the spectrum”, people are quick to tell me “we’re all somewhere on the spectrum”, as if they want to make an excuse for me.

At the same time, an ability to focus on a task is normal to me. To me, I procrastinate just like everyone else. But I also have results and turn ideas into money in weeks. I have no idea why other people deliberate for months and years on ideas and promises, why they even covet and get married to ideas. I surround myself with people that challenge me, I know there are plenty of people that do execute even faster than I without a better pedigree or network.

It feels like success at this game is what people want, but then also is optimized for “high functioning autistic sociopaths“ and if you are winning at this game that so many people want to win, you’re also likely a high functioning version of someone with a developmental disorder? Its easy for it not to be mutually exclusive, but it makes me think.


Hmm, I kind of disagree. I don't personally find listed startup 'traditions' necessarily bad. In fact, I love the fact that there are startups that are just like that (maybe because I like whiskey too). BUT I think it's a problem when startup culture is being copied. It's like saying 'the only cool music is rap, we won't listed to jazz or classical music or heavy metal'. So yeah, let there be more startups with their own authentic cultures (including totally opposing ones) because the culture described is a problem only when it's not your own, but you copy is because you want to be a cool kid too.

Hard to have authentic cultures when everyone is eating from the same VC plate and everything is located in the same few areas.

I have a number of issues with all the gratuitous things; one, they compensate for the work itself and the stresses associated with it being shit. Two, and this goes back to Google offering three meals a day and the like, they encourage you to stay at work beyond normal hours. Home life? Screw that, stay single and think about work more. Three, instead of throwing away money they could pay employees better (like, pay them for the number of hours they're at the office) and improve working conditions (like proper desks in proper rooms instead of long coffee tables next to the bar).

Very sensational, but how is this much different than the humor in Silicon Valley the rant makes fun of? Maybe the irony is intentional. I personally sit on an exercise ball at work because I like to bounce up and down. I developed that preference while programming spaceships at SpaceX. The over the top parties there were a lot of fun. Low key responsible parties are fun too; I recall after a funding round at Zipline we took half an hour to eat an ice cream cake then went back to work. The comments about coworkers drinking soylent is spot on.

I just ordered a mini trampoline to bounce up and down at my standing desk. Pretty excited, actually.

Originally from 2016. For those interested, these were the major discussions:

2016: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12682944

2018: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17002651


I watched the 2018 German film "The Wave" about some students that spend a week learning about fascism by gradually becoming fascists without knowing it.

And it's similar to a startup:

- One of the first stages in their indoctrination is wearing a uniform. In startups you get company t-shirts.

- Then there's the autocracy... a central figure that has supreme power, the movement leader. In a startup, you have the founders.

- And once startups become a cohesive group, they become a groupthink collective that thinks they're the invincible chosen few destined to rule the world.


It was an entertaining read. The mixture of valid criticism and bitterness was funny.

Sure, there are some crazy people in the field, but in the end, most of my friends would kill for the conditions I had at tech companies. As long as you remind yourself that it's just a job, it's a pleasant experience.


Does this really deserve a rehash?

I hope this guy found his true passion as an alpaca rancher. All humour aside, it's clear that the feeling is probably mutual.


>Fuck reading a book a week. No one can read that fast. Let me repeat that -NO ONE CAN FUCKING READ THAT FAST. How about actually reading that god damn book?!

I used to read a book a day (sometimes 2 days when books were really big or half a day when really small - like I could get through 2 Narnia books a day) - however that was in my teens when I didn't do my schoolwork and just read, or in my twenties when I was a committed non-productive member of society.

Recently I read a lot of Mark Twain (Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Puddn'head Wilson, Life on the Mississippi) I think it took about 3-4 weeks, so yeah a book a week. Luckily I have an e-reader now so I could get it in otherwise yeah I wouldn't have managed it.

In short - that got on my nerves and I think this person with their swearing judgements of other people should actually try reading a bit themselves.


Audio books is not technically reading yourself, but with those you can easily go through one book a week. They don't really work for me personally, but some of my friends listen to audio books all the time.

since I can do a book a week (approximately) using an ereader and reading whenever I have a spare moment during the day that's not my point, my point is where does he get this nobody can read a book a week thing (since I could read a book a day when I did not have the troubling concerns of employment and family and still a book a week now that I do have these concerns.)

The average reading speed is about 55 pages per hour, 8 hours a day or 8 hours a week - 440 pages.

Pretty much anyone can read fast enough to read a book a week.


I agree completely. It depends on the book, of course. I have grammar books that I have worked on for years and never totally finished. On the other hand, I can read a couple of classic SF novels on a rainy day and still really savor them.

I notice he doesn't say, "Fuck you for solving your customers' problems and making them insanely happy."

He's talking about the cargo cult parts.


That's because solving customers problems is so rarely a goal.

>Fuck you productivity freaks. You try to make me feel bad because I woke up “only” at 6AM.

What's so terrible about getting up sometime between 8 and 9am? :o


You obviously don't have kids :)

I guess that many of those "productivity freaks" have toddlers, they tend to wake up at 6.30-7. So waking up at 6 is the one hour in your day that is yours and yours alone. So they wake up at 5-6am, to have a couple of "good hours". Because after the morning preparations and a 40min drive to get the kids to school, your mind is less 'fresh' than what it was at 6am.

It's a practical thing (for those who find it to be). Not a panacea for all.


Why is he ignoring the time they go to sleep? 5am-10pm is the same as 7am-12am...

When did computer geeks and programmers, professionals of one of the least physical occupations, become so aggressive, at least verbally? This article sounds rather like my 16 year old friends who had a punk band with song lyrics where they "fucked" the police, the politicians, the church and basically everybody else. So much pent-up anger, I expect from a teenage punk band, but an article on technology? I don't really get it.

Not to say that, knowing we're all nerds here, this kind of tone sounds, frankly, a little ridiculous. I'm compelled to whisper "when you make a fist, you wanna keep your thumb on the outside".


> I never had to shift a bit in a C array in my life!

I have done (and continue to do) quite a bit of work involving bit shifting, along with various other bitwise operations. Is it really that unusual? Should I feel guilty?

Humor aside, I am genuinely curious to what extent other people are familiar or experienced with low-level bitwise operations.


Agreed - when I was working on gpu drivers bit shifting was a daily practice.

I imagine that very few people who work with higher abstraction level languages (java, c#, go, js) are experienced at all with that.

C# developer here. Bit shifting is super useful for defining flags and flags are awesome. In the web app world, I don't really come across the need for bit shifting outside of flags. If I am building something in Unity or GodotSharp, there are far more opportunities where bit-shifting is useful.

I generally agree with your statement when referring to code bootcamp graduates, but anyone with a CS degree should have learned bitshifting by their second programming course; YMMV.


Some "Fuck Everyone" vibes from Ed Norton in 25th Hour. Could use a little more than one line of self-reflection though at the end though.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgL_5QcZCMo


There is a follow-up post where he explains what happened after publication: https://medium.com/@shemag8/when-your-story-go-viral-8a1c84a...

I lived like this for decades. I think I'm beginning to recover now.

This is amusing. However, there’s rejection of the baby with the bath water here:

> reviewed your quarterly and yearly “goals” for another 30 minutes ... noise cancelling headphones and Pomodoro timers, your fucking to-do lists, apps

You can have these when you pry these from my cold, dead hands. I vividly remember my life before I got organised, productive, and before noise cancelling headphones, and there’s absolutely no going back.


It get me off on this line " when I need a hash set in Java I just use HashSet- I don’t fucking care about the complexity of this code block because I can afford another EC2 instance! So fuck you." I have to deal with these incompetent idiots everyday. Software Engineering is not mindless copy paste.

In September 2020, somehow this all feels so dated and irrelevant, including talking about it here on Hacker News. The whole culture is past its zenith, ready to be processed and filed away.

Now you mention it, I haven't heard much (mind you I'm not in SF or anywhere near the startup world) about the startup frat culture in a while now. The investors have become less spendthrifty (?), some of the really big ones (wework?) have fallen from grace, and the older generation (e.g. Google) has really toned it down as well.

I mean for a good while it was like, Google is the place to be because they only hire the smartest and they take really good care of their employees. But as time goes by, turns out what they do is just a job, their developers are all right, they've got tons of legacy code, etc.

I was offered to apply to their "apps" department (think Docs and co) in Germany, but it just did not sound appealing.


To some extent the 'culture' just moves on to different fields and/or subfields.

For example, my experience has been that the cryptocurrency/blockchain 'culture' reached its zenith at a point later than the more general 'startup/app culture'.

I suppose ML/AI stuff is still sort of on the way up, if not for the coronavirus putting everything on pause.

I know a bunch of people in their early-to-mid-twenties who are perfect 'canaries' for whatever is the next 'startup culture' and it's both interesting and slightly annoying to talk to them about it.

I feel to old to get caught up in all of it, but I admit that knowing what's hot can be helpful to find the type of work that I don't like but that pays the bills.


> For example, my experience has been that the cryptocurrency/blockchain 'culture' reached its zenith at a point later than the more general 'startup/app culture'.

I'd argue that it was the same thing; startup culture was running out of gas and then a new, spicy tech showed up that revived the field and spawned a whole new galaxy of statups.


Turns out a disease was the cure.

Many people abuse the world 'literally' to mean 'metaphorically' but it really fits here.

Interesting that in 2020 I’m not really sure how much of this applies? Trying to think of the major trends today, I don’t feel like they’re very well represented here. Or maybe I’m just a bit more disconnected from the modern startup world.

"I don’t fucking care about the complexity of this code block because I can afford another EC2 instance! So fuck you."

You mean, you can afford another N^2 instances?


"I’ll come work for you because you have the Glenlivet 17 and not the 15" ... obviously not a whisky drinker :D ... nothing against Glenlivet but come on :D


This felt good. I feel like I also wanted to say this

quite the collection of first world problems...

I only skimmed the article, but I am guessing "Fuck you for my 6 figures salary" is not there.


This just came across as "I am 14 and this is deep" or perhaps a LiveJournal post. I know how to swear too!

>design sprints

Oh my goodness; let's take everything that anyone has learned about software development and gut it. I hate these people.


Let's not ignore the 'minor' detail that the entire space is a ponzi scheme to begin with (coming from Chamath Palihapitiya; a billionaire who was one of the first Facebook employees): https://youtu.be/NVVsdlHslfI?t=2

And let's not ignore that the entire financial system within which this ponzi scheme operates is also a giant ponzi scheme: https://youtu.be/iFDe5kUUyT0?t=79

So the startup world is literally a ponzi scheme within a ponzi scheme.




Applications are open for YC Winter 2021

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: