Everyone was looking forward to hearing Gary Vaynerchuk speak as one of the keynotes at LeWeb Paris this year, but to take a phrase from Gary, holy shit I was not expecting him to be so forthright about some of the cultural issues that currently plague Silicon Valley. And I am so happy he was.


Among countless instances of the kind of swearing that would make him a delightful dinner guest, Gary spoke sense in a way that is tragically missing from the corporate rhetoric in the tech world. When asked what are the biggest problems in startups right now, Gary candidly responded,

“Entrepreneurs don’t realize they’re not entrepreneurs. It’s an attractive time. Mark put on a hoodie, Instagram made a billion dollars.The amount of people from Ivy league schools I’m meeting right now – from Stanford, from Harvard, from Yale – think they because they are smart students that they’re entrepreneurs. That first taste of adversity they get makes them crumble like a bunch of fucking bitches.”

And he’s right. We all know it. When San Francisco locals hold a Google bus hostage, their anger is misdirected. The tech culture that’s infiltrating our fair city is not a result of companies like Google, Apple, Facebook etc hiring lots of people – which is GOOD, because people need jobs to make money to put back into the economy – but a consequence of trust-fundees and wantrepreneurs clambering over the Appalachian mountains because they can make the kind of money in tech that 20 years ago they would have made on Wall Street. 

A true entrepreneur looks at the world and asks, “how can I make it better?” As Tony Tjan, CEO and Managing Partner of Cue Ball taught us on day 1 of LeWeb, an entrepreneur’s DNA is made up of hearts + smarts + guts + luck, and the self awareness to identify one’s individual strengths distributed across those traits. A true entrepreneur has a connection between the soul, the product, and the end user, along with a pure sense of why one is investing themselves into their endeavor. Tony believes in the power of a heart-driven venture and describes the path to success as:

“When you’re in that state where you do what you say. Where what you say is what you think. Where what you think is what you feel. And understand that what you feel is actually who you are.”

The best way to characterize a large percentage of startup culture right now is as a “brainstorm.” Entrepreneurialism has become so diluted by the thirst for money and recognition that oftentimes the most we can hope for is a purpose-driven individual to challenge the culture that has come to dominate Silicon Valley and remind us all why it’s so important to be open to when true innovation raises its head. 

Let’s stop giving fresh MBAs the idea that innovation is easier than it is. It’s hard. It’s “blood, sweat, and ramen” as one of the LeWeb speakers said on day one. Let’s recognize that we are in what Gary calls a “bubble of entreprenuership,” and in that bubble “for every 1 Instagram there are 5 million Insta-shits.” Let’s reward true innovation, true innovators, and get back to the spirit of entrepreneurialism that brought us where we are today.

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