Another kind of revolution is [now] taking shape. A handful of founders and CEOs — Brian Armstrong of Coinbase, Jason Fried of Basecamp, Shopify’s Tobias Lütke, Medium’s Ev Williams — have said the unsayable.
In the face of shop-floor social-justice activism, they’ve decided, business owners should resolve to stick to business.
No hashtag coders. No message-board threads about anti-racism or neo-pronouns. No open letters meant to get someone fired for a decade-old tweet. No politics. As Armstrong put it in his famous (or infamous) September 27th, 2020 blog post, business should be “mission focused.” A software developer explained that the conciliatory approach has become too costly: “The Slack shit, the company-wide emails, it definitely spills out into real life, and it’s a huge productivity drag.”
In October, a pseudonymous group inspired by Coinbase’s Brian Armstrong came together under the banner “Mission Protocol,” with the aim of getting other companies to start “putting aside activities and conversations” outside the scope of their professional missions. …
Way to go:
Some founders, venture capitalists, and angel investors are now refusing to speak with legacy-media journalists who infuse their reporting with a social-justice slant. “What’s the point [of talking to reporters]?” a developer said. “They hate us, and we think they know nothing about the way the world works outside their woke, east-coast bubble.” …
For these CEOs, the problem isn’t just the media and external critics: The wokeness is coming from inside the building. At dinner parties, they ask each other the same question: How do we keep woke activists off the payroll? “It’s the first thing they want to talk about these days,” a vice president at a venture-capital shop told me. “It’s the crazy, activist, political stuff. I’ve not met a founder who doesn’t think it’s a problem. There’s a state of what the fuck?”
To twenty-somethings steeped in critical race theory, the idea that a business should focus solely on its core product and generating shareholder value is unacceptable. …
The purpose of business:
In 1970, the New York Times published an essay by Milton Friedman titled A Friedman doctrine — The Social Responsibility Of Business Is to Increase Its Profits. As Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote in September, on the occasion of the article’s 50th anniversary, many corporations have abandoned that view (at least for public consumption). In 2019, he noted, the Business Roundtable changed its Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation: “What once had been an organizing philosophy heavily influenced by Mr. Friedman’s focus on profits for shareholders has since been replaced with one that espouses ‘a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders’ — not just shareholders but employees, suppliers, customers and affected communities. This move was seen as a tipping point for corporate governance by some observers and a cynical public relations ploy by others.” …
This shift toward a stakeholder-centric capitalism has opened the floodgates to all species of wokery in the workplace — prompting founders and CEOs to call for a return to business qua business. These entrepreneurs have always understood what so many progressives seem incapable of processing: building products that other people will buy requires not only hard work, talent, and a spirit of innovation, but also monomaniacal focus. …
Only the big near-monopolies can afford to play politics on company time:
True, wokeness has become the in-house creed at Apple and Google. But, as any number of engineers have pointed out, these are no longer run by their founders, but rather by teams of professional executives with little, if any, emotional connection to their founding corporate subcultures. Moreover, they are sitting on market positions and brand equity that allow them to placate coders who prefer consciousness raising sessions to actual coding.
These are the cozy, cash-soaked environments that journalists have come to treat as Silicon Valley’s baseline.
Serious people have no time for woke:
But the crypto space, they’ve discovered, operates on a leaner, more libertarian, and more explicitly profit-driven basis. The nature of the product, which runs up against old banking practices that have been around for centuries, ensures an anti-establishment ethos.
And many of the owners who are most inclined to speak their minds are foreign-born figures. They didn’t come to America to please reporters at the Times or get corrected on their pronoun usage by people half their age. They came to build the future and make money in the process.