Entrepreneur bashing: why?

by francine Hardaway on October 14, 2004

The part of Hawaii I visited last week (the Hilo side of the Big Island) has not yet been discovered and developed, although Donald Trump told Oprah Winfrey, who told fifty million viewers, that it was the last affordable ocean front property in Hawaii and prices have doubled in the past year.

But for now, it�s still the home of organic fruit and vegetable farmers, raw foodists, dophin researchers, and yogis. The cell phone reception is spotty, and most locals travel with a machete in the trunk. The jungle blocks the view of the ocean, and in order to get the oceanside lot of your dreams, you must hack through the foliage.

For some unknown reason, I want to buy some land there and go back. (Don�t worry, there�s a Starbucks in Hilo, although not one with wi-fi). The sunrises are extraordinary, the air is so pure that we mainlanders cough for the first few days, and the stars and truly visible. The Milky Way looks milky, as it did in the Hayden Planetarium when our elementary school class took a field trip to the stars.

But I think I most want to go back to Hawaii because the people are unpretentious. This seems to be a week of terrible pretentiousness in the states. This is the week of the third debate, and it�s in Arizona, so the President has caused most of Camelback Road � one of our prime east-west traffic carriers � to be blocked off for a few miles while he stays at a boutique resort hotel. Kerry stayed at the Westin Kierland, and caused the Scottsdale Airport to be completely shut down for a day. Half of the citizens of the fifth largest city in the world endured monumental inconvenience for 90 minutes of scripted tedium. Did we really need this?

Yesterday I was also subjected to some of the worst of Silicon Valley�s arrogance. I�m on the advisory board of a California startup, which shall remain nameless for obvious reasons, and I attended the advisory board�s first meeting electronically. The physical meeting was held in the DeAnza College Media Center, and it was streamed to me in my Phoenix office.

While the production values of both the meeting and the presentation were terrific, it was enlightening to see some of the Silicon Valley veterans on the advisory board criticize the founder (a well-respected technologist who has been with five successful companies) for his ideas. Although they had agreed to serve on the board, they seemed to think the best service they could give was merely to poke holes in the concept.

One man, the founder of a social software company, seemed to be simply posturing to convince all the rest of us how much he knew. Every point the founder made, this man shot down.

It forced me to take my phone off mute and participate. I�m not a Valley girl (or guy), and I didn�t feel compelled to make the entrepreneur feel like an idiot just to make myself look smart. Although I think criticism is fine, and I dish out large portions of it every day, it would be nice to offer suggestions for improvement along with the discouragement. It made me wonder how innovation will continue to take place in such a negative environment.

Yesterday I also had a meeting with a carpetbagger from California who tried to tell me there was no �engaged intellectual capital� in Phoenix, and gave me to believe he was the deus ex machina to end the town�s business problems. He�s a consultant to mid-market businesses, going to take them to the next level. But he only deals with businesses that want to maximize their value. He told me that excludes 97% of the companies in Phoenix.

Whoa, Nellie, we may be a cow town, but Arizona State University just won a Nobel Prize, and every CEO, active or retired, aspires to own a home in North Scottsdale. If I had a nickel for every out of state guy who came in here thinking he was going to change our world, I�d be retired.

Who do people think they are? Don�t they know that pride goeth before a fall, and that hubris (overweening pride) has destroyed everyone from King Lear to Adolf Hitler?

I�m sure there are arrogant people in Hawaii, but I didn�t see them. Instead, I saw authenticity, environmentalism, flowers, and a great deal of joy. And a couple of million stars.

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