Startup Toxicity

Click through on the image to be taken to a small selection of A4 posters designed to highlight the toxicity of startup culture. These were made by Tom Scott.

I think it was the late nineties when I attended a business startup programme and was told that “lifestyle” businesses are not good businesses. I was told that it wasn’t a good thing to aim for. And yet I couldn’t quite understand why.

The last ten years that I’ve been on the edges of the startup and investment communities have confirmed that this attitude is prevalent because of a few blue birds – a few companies who take investment and make a large fortune for a few founders and investors. The culture denies the reality that the economy is actually made up of lifestyle businesses; these are the shops and makers and services that we see and use every day. The owners of these businesses can live very comfortably, they can afford the luxuries of life and they’re not failures just because they haven’t made a 20x multiple of an investment.

Startup culture is and always has been toxic. Don’t judge others because of your limited perception of their actions and ambitions. And go easy on yourself if you’re not the stature of Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg at their tender years.


I enjoy the Deloitte Technology, Media and Telecommunications predictions every year. I enjoy the document, I enjoy their own self-deprecating scoreboard (and Paul Lee does it well) and I enjoy the schadenfreude of when they get it wrong as much as the nodding heads in agreement when they get it right. Predictions are hard to do – you’re trying to guess what people are going to like 12-24 months before they’re even aware there is something there. This isn’t about the early adopters; it’s about the common or garden consumer, be they at home or in the enterprise.

So this year…

  1. One became many: the tablet market stratifies

    We can already see that the tablet market is driving changes that are as profound as the PC revolution and yet possibly even more striking than the smartphone market. I believe this is because many people still see phones as “phones” and the tablet is a perfect companion for the older consumer, tired of the virus and security issues of Windows (and not yet bored of the same issues on Android). It allows them to do what they want, not necessarily provide the ability to do whatever they can (which is the hallmark of the PC). But even more pronounced than in the PC market there are two layers of tablets; cheap crap and good tablets. And due to slick visuals it’s even harder to tell them apart.

  2. Wearables: the eyes have it

    While I agree that we’re just on the cusp of wearables, I do not believe that eyeware will be the major driver for this market. We already have societal stigmas around glasses and eyes. We need to look more at wrist bands (more than wrist watches), sensors attached to keys, carried in pockets, sensors in shoes and these will likely be linked to smart devices such as phones, tablets, cars and pods (like static Nest devices).

  3. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): not disruptive yet, but the future looks bright

    This isn’t much of a prediction. When the second episode of Sherlock has references to folding napkins that the great detective “learned from YouTube”, then we crust establish that MOOCs are absolutely post-disruption. They may not just be in the form you’re expecting and they don’t have to be boring and organised and exactly the way a actuary would expect them to be.

  4. Doubling up on pay TV

    Using my own family as a barometer, I can see that over-the-wire subscriptions such as Netflix will utterly destroy expensive satellite and cable subscriptions. We reduced our home bill by a factor of 10 by switching from Sky to Netflix. And zero regrets. That said, between Netflix and YouTube, we consume over half a terabyte of data over our broadband line. This raises big questions for redefining broadband.

  5. Television measurement: for better and worse

    Because streaming devices have a much more active role in the process, it will now be possible to measure what people are playing (as opposed to actually viewing) but the problem will be in whose silos that data resides. TV stations have traditionally fluffed the numbers for decades but there’s no escaping the accuracy of digital transmission and currently the vast majority of data is residing inside the BBC, inside Netflix and inside Google.

  6. Broadcast sports rights: premium plus

    Can’t argue with this one. That said; I do wonder what will happen to stop inadvertent torrent-style broadcast of live events.

  7. Performance rights lift recorded music revenues

    This really highlights what a tiny market the music industry is. They’re excited over a few million increase in a $10B market. While I love music, I feel there must be a better way and musicians will have to start to value their own output more. I expect nothing to change in the next year though.

  8. Short messaging services versus instant messaging: value versus volume

    Messaging over IP is destroying expensive messaging over SMS. This is not news. And it’s going to get even worse as SMS is eroded by dedicated messaging markets (such as Google+, FaceBook Messenger, iMessage) and then beheaded by value-added messaging (Snapchat, Instagram Direct). So, this isn’t much of a prediction and I think the SMS revenues reported will be tempered by their market usage – they’ll be in the developing markets.

  9. Rugged devices at £200: reinventing the business case for mobile field force

    Adding a rugged case to a consumer devices isn’t a rugged device. It’s just taking advantage of the consumerisation of technology and the scaling markets. It will be limited by the same things as with tablets – cheap crap or decent devices. There’s a market for cases and protecting these devices as well as creating secure apps for enterprise and government.

  10. The smartphone generation gap: Over 55? There’s no app for that

    I mentioned this earlier but I think the larger screen sizes of tablets will bring smartphone-type activity to older users. The problem with smartphones is a problem of deteriorating eyesight and fingers that are less nimble. It won’t be deliberate – they’ll just prefer to do things on larger screens. We can’t expect everyone to use a smartphone the way that alpha geeks use a smartphone. Nor should we.

You can view the predictions, see the scoreboard and download the full report here:

Rules of Norn Iron

1st RULE: You do not talk about Norn Iron.
2nd RULE: You DO NOT talk about Norn Iron.
3rd RULE: If someone says “stop” or goes limp, taps out then oppress their civil rights.
4th RULE: Only two guys to a protest.
5th RULE: One fight at a time.
6th RULE: Taps aff.
7th RULE: Fights will go on as long as they have to.
8th RULE: If you’re from Norn Iron, you HAVE to fight.

Belfast was featured in the Guardian online and in the Observer print edition.

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The more absolute the hush, the more shocking the thunderclap.

— Alan Moore

It does not do to rely too much on silent majorities, Evey, for silence is a fragile thing, one loud noise, and its gone. But the people are so cowed and disorganised. A few might take the opportunity to protest, but it’ll just be a voice crying in the wilderness. Noise is relative to the silence preceding it. The more absolute the hush, the more shocking the thunderclap. Our masters have not heard the people’s voice for generations, Evey and it is much, much louder than they care to remember.

Remember Me

Jean-Maxime Moris: No, we wanted Nilin to stand out. I think these sort of issues become self-fulfilling prophesies; people saying that only white males sell so then everyone only does white males. If you start believing these things, you get your head inside this cold marketing strategy that you cannot get your head around. It becomes a pretty fucking racist and misogynistic way of thinking about lead characters.