Practice, don’t preach 


After a hectic few weeks of travel, this morning I finally got a chance to get back into the routine of reading and replying to emails, tuning into the ether to get the latest updates on technology news, and most importantly, opening my writing app to jot down a few thoughts. And before I could get too far, I saw the story in The Information about an investor who was using his position of privilege to cross the line and harass female founders. 
The story, after a few hours actually roared into the social consciousness, becoming a much tweeted topic, though initially amongst female founders and investors. A few hours later predictably, we started to see comments, hot takes and the ensuing talk of diversity emerge from the VC community. There was even a Decency Pledge created. Many signed up – and while it seems like a great idea that as investors (and I am part of that demographic) should treat entrepreneurs, especially female founders with the same standards of ethics and decency as we expect from our founders when it comes to female employees. 

It made me wonder and tweet: “Fellow VCs, if you have to take a #DecencyPledge to begin with, you are doing it all wrong. Don’t need a pledge to behave properly/ethically.” The more I thought about it, the more I realized why this whole thing wasn’t sitting well with me.  

As I wrote on Facebook, my biggest issue with Silicon Valley is that when it comes to culture, ethics and morality, it is so damn reactive. I mean if you hate the sexism in the industry, why wait till a publication prints a piece. You mean to say that not a single male VC knew about the bad behavior of Justin Caldbeck? 

Why come up with a long list of recommendations as a blog post the day after? Why not ostracize the culprits before this even became news? And it is not just this specific event. Why criticize and comment on a company culture gone wrong when the board hasn’t done shit for a long time and let the crap happen?

I could go on and on, but the fact is that doing the right thing isn’t reactive, but proactive and an ongoing thing.

Seriously, if we want to make a difference, then do so by doing the right thing and speaking up. I know it is hard to lose out on connections, but seriously we need to not think of ethical, moral and cultural challenges as marketing opportunities and work for an overhaul from within — by saying no to bad behaviors and bad culture. 

From the earliest days, I have always imagined the technology industry to be a cool, quiet, future-forward, egalitarian and as an inclusive community. It is far from it. We aren’t going to get there with what my friend Susan Wu calls “diversity theater.” Every part of the ecosystem has to work hard to root out bad behaviors – from limited partners to venture capitalists to startup founders and their teams. It is about doing the right thing when no one is looking.

What is more ironic is that Caldeck issued an apology, which is nothing more than attempt to put lipstick on a pig, spin to distract and negate the impact of his actions. In other words, pure and utter bullshit! You don’t threaten people for years and then have a change of heart overnight. 

Or as one of his victims, Niniane Wang wrote in her blog post, “I do not believe that someone can harass women for 10 years, tell the people who exposed him to go f**k themselves, and then 24 hours later, thank them for bringing him self-awareness.” If his partners have any sense of morality — they would re-evaluate their relationships with someone who clearly has predatory tendencies. Such behaviors don’t change with a blog post or an indefinite leave. 
And for future Caldbecks, It is smart to not combine your personal peccadilloes and professional life. Or as an old saying goes: don’t shit where you eat. 

June 24, 2017. San Francisco 

Happiness

“Happiness isn’t hiding somewhere in some fantasy land” – Pharrell Williams’ creative director, Mimi Valdez

Photo: Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard. f13 1/90s, f=63mm, Leica SL & Leica Vario 24-90 SL lens

The Art of Stillness: Adventures in going nowhere

Pico Iyer is a philosopher who looks at the world from the lens of a travel writer. His books have a certain poetic quality to them. And I have been inspired by his work to travel to distant places. His latest book is not about going somewhere. Instead it is about the journey within.

The Art of Stillness is one of his shortest books — you can read it in less than an hour. It is ironic that I read this on a plane, going somewhere. The book is simple, devoid of pretense or pretentious prose. It makes you aware of the virtues of being still, going nowhere. Starting a few minutes a day, we can take this journey within. It is a way healthier addiction than that Xanax.

Or as Pico Iyer says

In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow.
In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention.
And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.

P.S. The book is worth buying in print — because the photos by Icelandic/Canadian photographer Eydís S. Luna Einarsdóttir are mesmerizing.

A curious weekend

After a long week, I am on a plane again. Perhaps like monk Matthieu Ricard, “For me a flight is just a brief retreat in the sky.” Or at least that is the justification I make to myself for constantly flying from one place to another. I am leaving behind a curious weekend — one that took me back into time. Normally, I don’t look back; I usually find myself focusing on what’s ahead by worrying less about what could have been.

But I listen to Nitin Sawhney, I lose sense of the control I have on my approach to life. He makes me contemplative, melancholic and at times wistful for a life that I know I don’t want or need. I realize that’s what music is supposed to do — make you feel special things you don’t necessarily desire to experience and deal with feelings that one has buried inside himself or herself for a time. Tides (from album Beyond The Skin) is one of those songs.

The Edge

Svalbard 2017 Copyright Om Malik.

VÂrsolbukta, Camp Millar. Made with Leica SL using Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH. focal length = 90mm, aperture = f4.8. Exposure time 1/1000