I once was young, and a VP (Part 1)

In the very short six years that have gone by since moving to the city where I currently live, I’ve seen the culture change dramatically. Someone more blunt might say it has “gone straight to the crapper.” Of course, this is my own subjective perspective. Since, if you consider all the new construction going on, the flourishing businesses, and the amount of people constantly moving to beautiful San Francisco, then you could easily say this city is doing fantastic. But sometimes, looks can be deceiving and if you think that everything is fantastic in the city then you would be wrong. If you think I’m going to rant about the changes taking place in San Francisco (specifically with regard to the tech world), well, then at least you are half right.

Let me clarify something here, I’m no expert in economics, and my academic background doesn’t include sociology. I studied circuit design and how to make diodes, electrodes, and resistors do my bidding. You may ask: why then do you think you have the right to discuss the subject? Well, I, Fede was once (for a whole year) 22, and in that magical year, the co-founder and VP of a honest-to-goodness business. Besides that experience, I also have the phenomenal faculty of common sense ( I prefer to call it “uncommon sense”, since most people seem to lack the ability to understand and judge basic things). If you would be so kind as to allow me to continue, I would like to point out the big flaws in the very big picture.

To begin, I would like to summarize my experience as co-founder and VP of a company. As previously mentioned, I was 22 when my friend (which was not even of legal drinking age) approached me with what seemed to be a genius, bullet-proof plan at the time. This guy was young, bright, and very ambitious. He worked for five years at a local shop, learning the business inside and out.

One afternoon, we sat down and ran some numbers, figuring that, with an initial investment of $6000 we could start our own shop. I thought, “Hey! I have $3000 laying around, so lets do it!” Just a few months later we were in business.

I once read somewhere that experience is the hardest teacher, because it will hand you the test first, and then gives you the lesson after. I don’t want to waste your time telling you about my business experience (read: failure), we can leave that for some other post (I’ll title it “How to fail hard in business”). However, I do want to talk about the way I felt throughout this period of my life.

While most people my age were in school, or working for the man, I was running my own business and calling the shots with my business partner. Heck, I was the man! We even had some employees that I bossed around. Yeah yeah, I was that guy. You know that guy right? The one that when he is talking to you, you see the “I’m way smarter and better than you” pour out of his facial expressions. Yea, I was him.

Ok, lets fast forward to the present (my finger is very itchy to start pointing).

Back then young adults were discouraged to start businesses. There were no other 20-something year old kids trying to start a business (at least not like the outrageous numbers you see today). You were lucky to get a bank to give you a credit card that had a $500 limit. We were not trying to change the world either, my business partner and I. We were just wanting to have a successful business and make some money.

These days it’s much more common to walk into a VC firm and demand some exorbitant amount of money for… for… an app? Yes! an app! An app that will innovate life by… by… by doing something! Yeah! Now, where is my (10) million dollars? Here…Sold! (See “Yo.”)

How is this even possible?! How are we letting this happen?! Because even if you have (or stole) a great idea, there is maybe one Bill Gates every 10 to 20 years (I know you are thinking Mark Zuckerberg would be better example to mention for this article, but Bill Gates has glasses and probably still plays dungeon and dragons). The point is, if you don’t wake up in the morning with body pain from, I don’t know, just sleeping, you are too young and by no means in a position to run a company.

Young people should not be trusted with gobs of money and power. For evidence of this, please look up Justin Bieber. What do you think will happen when you have an entire fleet of Justin Biebers in charge of funded companies with lots of cash to throw around? Well, they are going to Bieber things up. And what happens when things are Biebered up in your town? I think you know the answer, yet I will give you a very simple break down.

The Very Simple Breakdown Of What Happens When Things are Biebered Up In Your Town

  1. You get money to build your business
  2. You hire a bunch of new talent
  3. To get the new talent, you need to offer what everyone else offers in this market. Crazy salaries will simply not do any more. You need the coolest office space in the best part of San Francisco. You need a chef to come cook for everyone three meals a day. You need someone to do your employees laundry. You need someone to do the laundry of the guy that does the laundry. See where I’m going?
  4. Live the #CrazyStart-upAwesomeLife (also known as Biebers running around the streets of SF)
  5. A year goes by and you still don’t even know what your super cool app does
  6. New talent may not have actual experience building stuff
  7. You’ve run out of money
  8. Ask for more money
  9. Repeat until there is no more money

Stay tuned for the second part of this article…

Federico Pisani.

Technical Blogger.