Jamie Zawinski, an early engineer at Netscape, has written a takedown of Michael Arrington, and other venture capitalists who push startup employees to work devestating hours to build a company under the auspices of getting rich and changing the world.Over the weekend Arrington wrote a blog post titled, “Startups Are Hard. So Work More, Cry Less, And Quit All The Whining.“
In that post, Arrington quotes heavily from a diary written by Zawinski in 1994, and basically says, it’s hard to do a startup, it’s always been hard to do a startup, so suck it up, sleep at the office and get to work if you want to build a special company.
Zawinski took an exception to what Arrington wrote, and blasted it:
He’s trying to make the point that the only path to success in the software industry is to work insane hours, sleep under your desk, and give up your one and only youth, and if you don’t do that, you’re a pussy. He’s using my words to try and back up that thesis.
I hate this, because it’s not true, and it’s disingenuous.
What is true is that for a VC’s business model to work, it’s necessary for you to give up your life in order for him to become richer.
Follow the fucking money. When a VC tells you what’s good for you, check your wallet, then count your fingers.
He’s telling you the story of, “If you bust your arse and don’t sleep, you’ll get rich” because the only way that people in his line of work get richer is if young, poorly-socialized, naive geniuses believe that story! Without those coat-tails to ride, VCs might have to work for a living. Once that kid burns out, they’ll just slot a new one in.
I did make a bunch of money by winning the Netscape Startup Lottery, it’s true. So did most of the early engineers. But the people who made 100x as much as the engineers did? I can tell you for a fact that none of them slept under their desk. If you look at a list of financially successful people from the software industry, I’ll bet you get a very different view of what kind of sleep habits and office hours are successful than the one presented here.
So if your goal is to enrich the Arringtons of the world while maybe, if you win the lottery, scooping some of the groundscore that they overlooked, then by all means, bust your arse while the bankers and speculators cheer you on.
Instead of that, I recommend that you do what you love because you love doing it. If that means long hours, fantastic. If that means leaving the office by 6pm every day for your underwater basket-weaving class, also fantastic.
Arrington has since replied to Zawinski, writing:
“I was making the point that people have been working crushingly hard in our industry for quite a while now, and that today’s hard workers shouldn’t assume this is something new…
I wasn’t using your words as an argument to trick people into selling their souls. I just assume people will give them freely, drinking the same narcotic-spiked startup Kool Aid that I am. I was using your words to simply note that today’s hard workers were preceded by generations of other hard workers. Who sometimes also complained. In the end, we all know sausage making isn’t pretty. But sausage is, you know, delicious.”
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