The Chance for Sanity

I thought I’d write a polit­i­cal post that’s not about Trump. You’re wel­come.

I saw on the Interblogs this morn­ing that Giphy raised anoth­er $72 mil­lion in fund­ing at a val­u­a­tion of $600 mil­lion. Yes, that’s right, anoth­er $72 mil­lion… for a search engine… of ani­mat­ed GIFs.

The arti­cle goes on about the busi­ness: blah blah mon­e­ti­za­tion blah blah. But it makes no effort to address the point that invest­ing in the com­pa­ny is obvi­ous­ly a short-term bet, moti­vat­ed by some low but appar­ent­ly nonze­ro prob­a­bil­i­ty that peo­ple of the future will com­mu­ni­cate only through two-sec­ond reac­tion shots of tele­vi­sion char­ac­ters.

The mes­sage this invest­ment sends is eth­i­cal­ly ques­tion­able. I don’t have a prob­lem with entre­pre­neur­ship. I’m a start­up guy. My liveli­hood depends to some extent on ven­ture cap­i­tal and [hope­ful­ly] occa­sion­al suc­cess. But my lit­mus test for any busi­ness mod­el is sim­ple: does it strive to cre­ate val­ue as well as wealth? It’s a test that Giphy fails mis­er­ably (to say noth­ing about many arms of the finan­cial indus­try that sup­ports it).

So what. But I couldn’t help think­ing about the guy who writes the $72 mil­lion check and address­es it to a repos­i­to­ry of GIFs. What does that feel like? I won­der if he or she has read Pres­i­dent Eisenhower’s famous “Chance for Peace” speech. Eisen­how­er was talk­ing about the per­ils of Cold War defense spend­ing, but it’s not a com­plete­ly sil­ly par­al­lel to ven­ture cap­i­tal in 2016. He wrote, in 1953:

Every gun that is made, every war­ship launched, every rock­et fired sig­ni­fies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spend­ing mon­ey alone.

It is spend­ing the sweat of its labor­ers, the genius of its sci­en­tists, the hopes of its chil­dren.

The speech (which you should read in its entire­ty), famous­ly goes on to list a num­ber of incred­i­ble, world-chang­ing things one could buy for the price of a new bomber, fight­er jet, or destroy­er: schools, pow­er plants, hos­pi­tals, food, and homes.

How far we have come in 63 years. Eisen­how­er was furi­ous about ratch­et­ing up the machines of war just a few years after World War II scarred the world. Today our coun­try has enjoyed the longest peri­od of rel­a­tive peace and pros­per­i­ty in its his­to­ry, and ven­ture cap­i­tal is pump­ing out bil­lions of dol­lars. But rather than invest in our future as a soci­ety, they have decid­ed to dou­ble down on GIFs.

Leave a comment

Leave a Comment

October 31, 2016 October 31, 2016 politics by Scott [permanent link]