In Silicon Valley, the American Dream is alive and on steroids. Heaping bags of cash are handed to college dropouts with a neat idea, who can then sell that idea for more heaping bags of cash. But less talked about are the start-ups that fail, miserably and painfully. Until now, thanks to one man's intimate blog: "My Startup has 30 Days to Live."
In his first post on Tuesday, the anonymous blogger claims that he spent the past two years building something that he thought truly mattered. But he was suckered into "the startup game," he says, misguided by investors, stretched too thin, and now has no choice but to fire his team and admit defeat. His account is both an indictment of the startup bubble culture and a wrenching real-time obituary of his baby.
"I found myself sitting at my desk, afraid, alone and overwhelmed," he writes.
Tumblr made a big splash in the tech press Tuesday about the blog, hitting a chord in a crash-and-burn world of big dreams and easy cash, and prompting a wild detective hunt for the identity of its mysterious author. But that's what's so compelling about it. If it's true, he could be so many people: According to Mashable, 90 percent of technology startups fail. For venture-backed companies in general, that number is 3 out of every 4, according to Shikhar Josh, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School. We just don't hear about them. As Josh put it in the The Wall Street Journal, venture capitalists "bury their dead very quietly."
For the enigmatic entrepreneur, it seems that trumpeting his failure is purely therapeutic. "The 20 minutes I've spent doing this each day have been the most calming moments I've had in some time, moments where I can detach and write something that isn't tied to business or content-marketing ploy," he wrote Thursday morning. "This is clarity, or as close to clarity as I've been in recent memory."
You may not follow Silicon Valley, but you probably slow down when you pass a car wreck. And this guy's offering a slow-motion play-by-play of complete annihilation, written like an epilogue to a dream.
Read below the slideshow, "Middle Class Jobs Killed By Technology."
Booking flights, hotels, and guided tours used to be tasks that required mysterious knowledge and thousands of phone calls. It was a job that required an expert. Now it's a job that requires a few free hours and some poking around on Expedia. American Express Co. announced this month that it plans to slash 5,400 jobs, largely in its travel business. And this bodes badly for things to come.
Paralegals probably thought they were safe; nestled into law firms, digging through documents, deciphering legalese. Unfortunately, much paralegal work boils down to picking out keywords, and highlighting sections of documents that might be useful for the lawyer on the case. We may not be there yet, but a future in which software can do all that decently, in just a few seconds, is not that far away.
CNNMoney recently profiled Nelson Springer, a Macy's shoe salesman, who in the last year has seen his commission shrink by $5,000. It may truly be the death of the salesman. This past Black Friday, shoppers spent over $1 billion online -- a 26 percent increase from the same day last year. E-commerce has soared at a dizzying rate, radically changing the way we hunt deals and judge products. It's also radically eliminated the jobs of many salespeople.
Accounting is a skilled job. It requires a Bachelor's degree and a keen eye, a knack for figures, and a scrupulous disposition. Unfortunately, software is also very skilled, and the meticulous examination of financial records is something that technology is very quickly learning to do.
Every time you book a room using an online form or arrange a meeting with an email, you've taken a task away from an office manager. Many of the coordinating, record-keeping jobs that offices need to run smoothly are now being done with a click. And each of those clicks pushes office managers and assistants closer to extinction.
Just a little over a decade ago, there were 56,000 utility meter readers in the U.S., according to the Labor Department and reported by the AP. Since then, that number has shrunk by almost 40 percent. With smart readers, both companies and residents can check how much electricity they're using on the internet -- no need for a guy to stop by and check a reader face-to-face. This empowers consumers to track and cut down on their own consumption. It also means that one day, in not too long, all utility meter readers could be out of the job.
While actually human human resources managers will still be necessary for all the delicate personnel handling -- recruiting, hiring, firing, conflict resolutions, and the like -- the basic bookkeeping of benefits and payroll is no longer done in books, and no longer needs so many keepers.