Me and my laser tag gun. Happy Trails Hans.
Yeah, it's true. I'm that guy that you fly to a private island to hob knob with and I just eat a weed brownie and act dum. I've accepted that part of me. I'm a hillbilly and I see that as a positive. I grew up on a farm. We were dirt poor. We ate eggs from our chickens and drank dehydrated milk in a not hipster way. I know what it is like to truly have nothing and so anything I have I am deeply grateful for. I am not a person who is obsessed with more. More money, more fame, more, more, more. That's not me. As long as I have love from my family and friends, beer and whiskey and the opportunity to express myself through science or art I will be good.
That's not Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is runaway capitalism. People want to make money for money's sake. It doesn't matter how or why or who is fucked over in the process.
2018 was my peak hype. At least I think it was. Though I just looked at my wikipedia entry and there is nothing for 2018 so now I'm questioning myself. Actually, 2019 might have been my peak but maybe 2018 was my Silicon Valley peak. That was the year Peter Thiel flew me to a private island with a bunch of Billionaires to hangout.
I never really got along with Silicon Valley. I lived in Mountain View for a few years. Lived in the Bay Area for around 7 years now. I get all the inside jokes from HBO’s Silicon Valley that you don’t get. I was even a super fan of Valley Wag and have been trying to get Nitasha Tiku to write about me ever since. Still I don’t fit in. I'm a little rough around the edges. Been arrested a few times. Once I might have even smoked crack on accident. You can imagine how well my hillbilly punk style goes over with all the Stanford drop-outs/graduates (hard to tell the difference) that make up the start-up world here. I remember going to a Y Combinator interview looking like a homeless person. The informational email said I didn't need to dress up so I didn't. As you can imagine they didn't accept me.
As I usually do, I find my own way. In 2016, I started my company, The ODIN. It has grown to have 6 employees and to this day we have yet to take venture capital funding. I don't think you understand how weird that is. I have met zero other Silicon Valley start-up founders who have built a company without funding. It would be less weird if you were a full-time furry CEO. I began getting lots of press because I am unconventional but when John Oliver quoted me saying "I want to live in a world where people get drunk and instead of giving themselves tattoos they’re like, I’m drunk, I’m going to CRISPR myself." I became a curio if you will. Well maybe it wasn't just the John Oliver thing but stop trying to ruin the story flow.
It's weird to have people with more money than I would make in 1000 lifetimes treat you like an interesting object. None of them willing to get too close for fear that my piercings and self tattoos, my peasantry, might rub off on them. It has happened way more than I would like to admit and usually I just try and go along for the ride. People always imagine that they want to be friends with those who have ridiculous wealth but in real life I have always had the issue of what do we talk about? Like, have you toppled a regime lately? It's usually all very superficial. I'm the side piece that’s just crazy enough that no one will commit to them.
Don't get me wrong I have never been mistreated. People just fly me to islands in the middle of the Canadian Wilderness to hangout and salmon fish and then won't respond to my texts. So I just started saying fuck it. I'ma eat my weed brownie and get hammered. That's all they usually want from me anyways. To say or do something crazy that they can tell their friends about. I know that guy who ate poop and injected himself with CRISPR they say.
So yeah, 2018, peak hype. Founders Fund(FF), Peter Thiel's venture capital fund invited me out to an island in the middle of the Canadian Wilderness. Everything was paid for of course. Limo would pick me up, fly a private plane to Canada and then take a 4 person sea plane to an island. Most everyone else invited either worked for FF, had a company that FF had invested in or was just wealthy or famous. I was just the curio. Not wealthy. People are intrigued by my crazy. It’s awkward but also it’s a fun position to be in because there is no one I need to impress. I didn’t need anything from anyone. That bad part is I think that rubs people the wrong way.
I remember in High School when Joe Margettis took me to my first party and he told me he needed to go say hi to some people to show face and pay respect. That's the way the island was. High school except none of the fun parts. There was a hot tub outside the suite I was staying in. It looked off onto the glassiness of the water surrounding the island and the untouched Canadian wilderness. I was the only one I ever saw in a hot tub. When a bunch of people decided to play a game of mafia at 12AM in a giant cabin Peter Thiel was staying in. I was the only one who wasn't sober. They had a book club during the day. OK, ok maybe it was like the nerdy part of high school.
The island was a resort. When we landed they handed me a glass of champagne which I finished in a gulp because that fucking sea plane ride over made me shit my pants. It was a plane from the 1930s I swear. Fortunately, there was a free bar as we entered the resort so right after I received my welcome packet I went and got a whiskey. Fucking sea plane. I settled in a bit and came back for dinner on the first night. One thing I noticed is that wealthy people tend to have eccentric points of view. It makes them seem interesting to each other but in real life it's just boring. There is less depth in a conversation about whether we live in a simulation than there is chatting about toe fungus. I just drank and drank and chatted and chatted. Let me tell you, it is exhausting being around people who thought their opinions mattered so much. Don't get me wrong I was the poorest person at this event by far but like, just because you raised $1 billion in venture capital for an app you paid some coders in Ukraine to write doesn't mean you're an expert in education or healthcare or really anything affecting real people in the real world.
I think this is one of the major problems with Silicon Valley, people want to be relevant beyond the fact that they just have money. However, the truth is that MONEY is usually the only reason they are relevant. They aren't geniuses and they don't have special insight into things. None of them built the products their companies sell and none of them could. I see it all the time, successful venture capitalists or CEOs try and become thought leaders. Posting their wisdom on Twitter, a blog or even worse substack. They say shit like "To run a start-up you don't need to sell to people you need to sell to yourself." which sounds insane but people retweet that shit in hopes that they get noticed. That they get investment or maybe even that they become friends and talk about toppling regimes or some shit hopefully not too superficial.
Day two we played laser tag around the whole resort. Peter Thiel didn’t join. It felt like a teenagers birthday party. I can’t say it wasn’t fun though. I don’t know what else to say about that.
On to dinner.
The thought of another night talking to people who imagine that they can solve the world’s problems using their massive intellect was daunting and luckily I had acquired some weed brownies for just this kind of situation. I ate one and went to dinner. I don’t remember who I was sitting next to except the fact that they seated me next to Justin Roiland, the co-creator of Rick and Morty. He is the only name I will mention in this article because FF has always been kind to me and I do respect peoples who attended’s right to privacy. Since then, Justin and I have become sort of friends. Not real friends. Just sort of friends. He only responds to every fifth email of mine and only sends me emails when he is drunk(at least that’s what I imagine). But I don’t think he would mind me mentioning him. Justin is good people. He has no pretension in him. Not a bone. When our three tortellini came he picked up the fancy-not-drinkable-from bowl and drank the broth. I mean, we were starving, the meal was one of those “so fancy you only get a tiny bite for each course” type of meals so I don’t hold it against him. In fact, I was jealous of his audacity. When we were ordering wine I asked for a buttery Chardonnay but Justin just wanted to most expensive wine on the menu so we split the difference and went for the most expensive Chardonnay. By this time the weed brownie is kicking in. Justin gives me his phone to enter my contact info and I just stared at his phone for a few minutes lost in a haze of being stoned. He freaked out a little bit and asked me what I was doing with his phone. Nothing man, I'm just drunk and the lack of food is making it all worse. By the time dinner was done I was starving and everyone was going to walk over to Peter Thiel’s cabin because he was having a party there. At least the cold and fresh air would sober me up a bit. They would have food there so that was a plus. Food would help me sober up a bit. NOOO. The food all had cheese or dairy in it and I am lactose intolerant and I didn’t want to be farting all night with dairy cramps so I had no choice but to grab another beer and buckle up for the ride. I was not sobering up. This was a swanky-ass cabin mansion and they were serving drinks but I seemed to be the only person drinking. I wasn’t really sober enough to talk to anyone but I did it anyway. Lucky for me all of my embarrassment has been erased from my memory. Well almost all.
Six months later a friend says, I think you should meet this person. Let me introduce you.
Sure, I say.
They introduce me.
Nice to meet you, I say.
Oh, actually we met already waiting to use the bathroom at Peter Thiel’s cabin, they say.
Sorry about that, I say. They didn’t serve much for dinner, ya’ know?
After that bathroom break I went and sat down. It happened to be right in the middle of a game of mafia and I was drafted to play. This was pretty surreal. I’m fucked up and everyone else is sober. I’m weird to begin with so it definitely didn’t help. When I told them I might be too drunk to play they looked at me with chagrin. I shrugged and was the first person voted out even though I wasn’t mafia. I got the feeling they were annoyed by me. If you don’t know the game Mafia the rules are pretty simple. There are people in the group who are deemed the mafia. No one knows who they are except the person leading the game. Every round the mafia gets to select a person to kill and the townspeople try to guess who the mafia is before they are all killed by the mafia. So the game starts by people accusing each other of being mafia and everyone agreeing or disagreeing and arguing to vote someone out. I decided to try a second time and again was the first person voted out. Again, I wasn’t mafia. It was at that moment I realized just how different than these people I was. The outsider. I was literally told twice that I was untrustworthy and despite it being a game it mimicked real life. People paid deference to the accusations of those who were high in the Silicon Valley hierarchy and ignored those of people who weren’t that high. It’s crazy how much power this hierarchy holds over people’s lives. Silicon Valley claims to be a bastion of freedom but people don’t dare say or act out of order around the elite. Wouldn’t want to offend them as they might want to give you a billion dollars one day. I don’t want a billion dollars though. That’s not what motivates me in life so I quit mafia. I went and found Justin and asked him if he was as fucked up as I was and he just shook his head no. I guess I’m in this one alone. I went out on the front porch and sat down on a bench and just decompressed and stared off into the wilderness. Every once in a while someone would come out for a cigarette and we might chat a little bit but mostly I just reflected.
Coming to the event part of me hoped someone would just invest in my company without me asking. Completely unrealistic but I want so bad for people to see myself and my company as fucking crazy but worth investing in. I hate being on the outside as much as I enjoy it. I learned that you can only be so different from people if you ever want to fit in. That’s a hard one for me. I dread following the crowd. It’s like hardwired into me.
Silicon Valley is truly a world of people who don’t deserve to be there. So everyone is fighting to fit in. I have never seen anyone invest in crazy or disruptive founders or products. I have seen plenty of investments in dum companies, ever heard of Yo? Mostly though venture capitalists just invest in the same start-ups the biggest funds invest in. They hope they can skitch a ride on that broken Tesla retractable door handle of success.. Everyone tries to pretend like there is some secret to success but really it is just luck and who you know. You can’t just email venture capitalists, you need to be introduced. Everything in the Bay is about the intro. This creates a system of cronyism like no other. It’s so disheartening that the only way to succeed in the Bay Area start-up world is to know the correct people to beg, I mean, pitch for money. And venture capitalists have no special qualifications except that people decided to entrust them with money to invest. It’s not even their money. Despite all the VC brags, an analysis from the Kauffman Foundation, who invest in venture capital firms, showed that VC investments don’t actually outperform the public market. It doesn't matter thoughh, venture capitalists make money regardless if they perform. The good old 2 and 20. Start-ups that raise money the founders generally make a pretty penny regardless if the company succeeds. The number of times I have heard founders buy houses or take fancy trips around the world after raising a funding round is fucking mind blowing.
I mean, I was flown on a private plane to a resort in the middle of the Canadian Wilderness with a group of people and a venture capital fund paid for it. I have had a number of ridiculously wealthy people fly me places to meet. At first, I wouldn't even let people pay for stuff for me. That was dum but I still don't feel bad about it. I'm a different breed. I don't want your money, I want your friendship. I would rather have a friend who would take a bat to a mother fucker for me than know someone who is a billionaire. I've realized that a billionaire doesn't have friends. They aren't going to support me through tough times. They are never going to just give me money because they want to help me do cool shit. It's not that they are mean, almost all wealthy people I have met are super nice, it's just not possible. How do you be friends with a billionaire? What do you talk about? I haven't toppled any regimes. So that leaves me one option I have to beg, I mean, pitch them for money and it comes with lots of strings. I've tried to suck it up and beg, I mean, pitch people for funding. But everytime my acting betrays me. I've realized that no one wants to be friends[with me] in Silicon Valley. People just want the impossible, to become friends with billionaires. It's a hard realization and so I decide to walk back to my cabin and get some sleep.
I never saw Peter Thiel again.