- Influential investor Michael Moritz has argued that Silicon Valley firms will lose out to Chinese rivals because employees expect benefits like paternity leave and time off at weekends.
- Moritz said Silicon Valley debates around paternity leave and political correctness were signs of a society becoming “unhinged” and fast-growing Chinese firms don’t have these discussions.
- Moritz approvingly noted that Chinese workers will turn up to a cold office wearing coats and scarves, will fly economy, and reuse tea bags.
- He argued that while this way of doing business was probably not appealing to Westerners, Chinese expansion would make Silicon Valley look “antiquated.”
Sequoia Capital partner Michael Moritz has argued that Silicon Valley employees spend too much time pushing for benefits like time off and paternity leave, while their Chinese counterparts are forging ahead by working 12-hour days and working weekends. Moritz made the comments in an opinion piece for The Financial Times.
Welsh-born Moritz is a highly influential venture capitalist, with early investments in Google, LinkedIn, and PayPal. He was also on the board of travel company Skyscanner when it sold to Chinese firm Ctrip in 2016 for £1.4 billion.
In his opinion piece, Moritz praised the “furious” pace of work in China. Californian employees, he argued, expected too much – like having time off at the weekend.
He wrote: “Here [in China], top managers show up for work at about 8am and frequently don’t leave until 10pm. Most of them will do this six days a week – and there are plenty of examples of people who do this for seven.”
Later in the piece, he added: “If a Chinese company schedules tasks for the weekend, nobody complains about missing a Little League game or skipping a basketball outing with friends.”
He drew unflattering comparisons with Californian tech firms, and complained that debates around paternity leave and political correctness were a distraction from work.
Here’s what he wrote, emphasis ours:
“In California, the blogosphere has been full of chatter about the inequity of life. Some of this, especially for women, is true and for certain individuals their day of reckoning has been long overdue. But many of the soul-sapping discussions seem like unwarranted distractions. In recent months, there have been complaints about the political sensibilities of speakers invited to address a corporate audience; debates over the appropriate length of paternity leave or work-life balances; and grumbling about the need for a space for musical jam sessions. These seem like the concerns of a society that is becoming unhinged.”
Moritz does not give examples of “distractions” such as paternity leave and conference speakers being criticised for their views.
Facebook – which is not a Sequoia portfolio firm – has been forefront of the paternity leave discussion in Silicon Valley. CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed in August he would take two months of paternity leave after the birth of his second child, an unusual move in a country where there is no guaranteed paid leave for new mothers.
There also are not many public examples of corporate speakers being forced off a schedule due to their views.
It’s possible Moritz had Y Combinator president Sam Altman in mind. Altman was widely criticised in December for a controversial blog post in which he too drew unflattering comparisons between China and California, specifically around the discussion of uncomfortable ideas.
Altman wrote: “Earlier this year, I noticed something in China that really surprised me. I realised I felt more comfortable discussing controversial ideas in Beijing than in San Francisco. I didn’t feel completely comfortable-this was China, after all-just more comfortable than at home.” Later in the post, Altman argued that a physics genius should be permitted to say “disparaging things about gay people” if it led to new ideas.
Curiously, Moritz doesn’t acknowledge that he is comparing a highly developed country with an emerging economy, nor does he acknowledge that long hours can encourage greater inefficiencies due to tired and demotivated workers.
It’s not the first time Moritz has been bullish about China. In a 2015 interview with Business Insider, he said Europe tended to “underestimate” China, citing Tencent, Alibaba, and Huawei.