Sean Parker: Silicon Valley conditions resemble prewar Europe
Most Silicon Valley luminaries refrain from rants about Silicon Valley. But Sean Parker, who co-founded music service Napster, served as president of Facebook, and invests in music-service Spotify, isn’t a typical Valley luminary– which perhaps is why he felt compelled to paint a bleak, fractious picture of the place to conference goers at Techonomy on Tuesday.
“The conditions in Silicon Valley now resemble the conditions preceding World War One,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to decipher who’s working with whom and who’s at war with whom.”
But he took a stab at it anyway, predicting that a handful of powerful companies would forge alliances with each other, for example as Facebook has aligned with Spotify. Then he really warmed up to his technology-as-war analogy. “You’ll see Google pretending to be Switzerland but really doing deals with everybody secretly,” he said. “And Apple being left on its own to build the Death Star.”
Parker blamed some of Silicon Valley’s problems on the profusion of cash available to early-stage start-ups. (Of course, his Founders Fund backs a good number of them.) “The talent gets defused,” he complained. “They all go work for their own companies.”
When he was finished with his thoughts on the state of society–which pinballed between topics such as the role of equity in wealth creation, the ripeness of politics for technological disruption, and the need for skepticism in education– he provided a few tantalizing tidbits about his next startup, Airtime. They came alongside reminiscences into the teenage Sean Parker.
“When I was in high school I was desperately searching for a girl who was into punk rock who was also into Spinoza and Nietzsche,” he said. “I came up empty handed every time….I didn’t have the tools to find her.
“Without getting into details on what this product is—basically, that’s the concept. How can we intelligently allow people, who wouldn’t otherwise have met, to find each other?” Lonely heart high school kids, take note.