San Francisco, 2012. I had just moved from Sweden to set up the US office for Toca Boca. Part of the reason for choosing this part of the US was the proximity to Apple. We needed to get to know them, and we needed them to know us.
On one of my first visits to Infinite Loop, I visited the store. As a long-time Mac user, this was an exciting moment. I bought a water bottle with the Apple logo on it.
Since then, much has changed. But I wasn’t ready for my reaction the other day when I was about to take a walk, and reached for a water bottle to bring. The Apple one was there, and I hesitated. I instinctively didn’t want people to see me with merchandise from there.
The Techlash is real. The Economist wrote a good run through in the beginning of the year, and even the promoter-in-chief Techcrunch wrote that their own industry was full of “hubris and hypocrisy”. But while it has been a topic in the media, the aversion to tech is creating a rift that seems overlooked by the industry at large. My sense is that they think it will blow over and/or become the new normal. Facebook releasing Portal in a flurry of hacks and privacy intrusion says just this to me. Either they don’t think consumers care that much, or that there’s never a better time than now anyway (of course, Portal has already had its own issue with data privacy). I think they’re wrong – people do care – but the big wave hasn’t hit yet. If you’re looking, you can see it.
Interestingly, they don’t seem too concerned about their number one priority either – their own self-interest. Where the talent will go and what brand names look good on a resumé. After endless and contrived “we’re changing the world” mantras for companies that are essentially ad servers, it is an increasingly hard story for employees to tell themselves. They’re making a lot of money, they have a comfortable work environment, but they are not changing the world. At least not in the way that they intended.
I have personally experienced so much arrogance from these companies. Heard so many stories too. I can’t help but think of another industry that was arrogant, looked down upon people who were on the outside, and the dealings of which put society at risk. That industry crashed in 2008 (but seemingly learned nothing). It’s not a bold prediction to say that the similarities indicate this coming to a head in tech too.
I didn’t leave the house with the Apple bottle in the end. And while there’s still an iPhone in my pocket, I wonder how many others are hesitant in Silicon Valley right now. People asking themselves if they’re in the right place, working on the right side of the issues, changing the world in the way they wanted to.
When they’re ready to pay the price to abandon ship, change could come quickly. As with the consumers at large.