Economics/Class Relations

Silicon Valley Founders Are Not the Protagonists of Reality

By Malcolm Harris, The Nation

The fall of bloated tech start-ups isn’t tragic, regardless of what the recent spate of TV series would have you believe.

There are currently three television series about what we might call “tech founders”: Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos (The Dropout on Hulu), Travis Kalanick of Uber (Super Pumped on Showtime), and Adam Neumann of WeWork (WeCrashed on Apple TV). With mountainous valuation charts that already look like rise-and-fall narrative diagrams, their companies cook into miniseries easily. “Pump,” “drop,” “crash”—hubris has never been so ready to package. But if these founders are classically tragic figures, why are two of them still billionaires? Until we can answer that kind of question, there’s no sense to be made of their stories. These formulaic shows don’t need to exist, but neither did the companies they’re based on; each can tell us something useful about the other.

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