I have done a lot of tongue-holding and walking away from my laptop over the last few weeks as I’ve seen the most storied business and tech publications write almost stunned “news” that the Softbank Vision Fund has imploded based largely on two companies that Pando long argued did not have sustainable economics. Those implosions are reverberating throughout Softbank’s portfolio, and hence, through the entire startup world.
There’s fear. There’s a pretty big number of aggregate layoffs. There’s a focus on profits not growth. And there’s the debate over whether or not there will even be a Vision Fund #2.
One thing that long pissed me off as a tech reporter and an editor was the unwillingness to call this stuff out when it was clear but before it became something so commonplace your readers could look out the window and see it. It does precious little good for employees of a vision fund company to read hot takes now on why they are laid off.
The Financial Times is one of the only publications that consistently is unafraid to point out the lack of emperor’s clothes but avoid the “It’s a bubble” hand-wringing. For many of the rest, the cycle goes: “IT’S ANOTHER BUBBLE” at any growth in the ecosystem at all followed by “I guess this is just how companies are built now. It’s a new economy! New rules!” followed by “Wow, I guess that whole previous new rules thing didn’t work out after all, Huh.” Then the cycle starts again. This cycle both misses new and interesting cycle beginnings, and important cautions when things have become too hot.
I’m no longer a tech journalist, but here’s the underreported story on this shakeout and questioning of whether the Vision Fund Playbook is truly doomed and taking with it the “best practices” of more than a decade of company building.
I don’t care if mega rounds are done. I don’t care if blitzscaling is done. What I want to know is whether the cult of the founder is done. Because if you really trace back the rot that came from aping companies like Uber and WeWork, it was less the amount raised that caused the real problems there. It was a belief that the founder had almost dynastic, God given rights over all things at the company that should never be questioned, even if it broke laws.
Silicon Valley won’t have learned its lesson of the eras until that shifts.
Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom:
- Separate Money: Scared for my husband to know that I am in debt!
- Sounds dumb, but I need help finding easy ways to donate stuff!