The Silicon Valley tech scene has long glimmered with promise of meritocracy. Any 18-year-old in a garage can come up with a great idea and if they hustle and hack long and hard enough they can make their dreams come true.
“That’s the propaganda we use to bless the charade,” author Antonio García Martínez tells Business Insider, echoing the idea explored in his new book “Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley.”
The book romps through Martínez’s wild trajectory from Wall Streeter to pre-IPO Facebook employee, with the dramatic sale of his Y Combinator-backed ad-tech startup (to Twitter) in between.
“One of the biggest fallacies of Silicon Valley is that it’s a meritocracy,” he says. “But, really, only the most deluded and douchiest people I met in Silicon Valley actually think it is.”
Those people are the ones who justify their hundred-million dollar payouts by believing that they worked a hundred-million times harder than the people working on the startup next door, he says, instead of admitting that in a lot of ways making it big in Silicon Valley is a mix of ” happenstance, membership in a privileged cohort, or some concealed act of absolute skulduggery.”
Martínez didn’t specifically call out how race, gender, and orientation can be some of the biggest blocks to that meritocracy. Silicon Valley is still very much a place where straight white men are succeeding.
He also explores the corporate form of this lie, where companies try a zillion things, and then act like the one that worked was its plan all along.
“What was an improbable bonanza at the hands of the flailing half-blind becomes the inevitable coup of the assured visionary,” he writes in the book. “The world crowns you a genius, and you start acting like one.”