The Crunchies reinforce the certainty that they’ve already made a difference, which may explain the lackluster response to the civics segment of the show. Angel investor and philanthropist Ron Conway, the white-haired “godfather of Silicon Valley” reprimanded the crowd like a disappointed principal for shirking their duties as a citizen of San Francisco or the South Bay (for him, the East Bay doesn’t exist). After Conway scolds the audience, he touts the achievements of Sf.citi, a civic group for tech companies, that’s widely regarded to be a dud, despite his efforts. Last year, Conway took the podium with Mayor Ed Lee, a man-sized political puppet. This time, the local official was London Breed, the first female president of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors in 16 years.
Breed talked about growing up down the street in a public housing development in an apartment with five people that cost $700 per month. She appealed to the bootstrappers in the audience — the presenters for “Best Bootstrapped Startup” acknowledged that the days of self-sufficiency are over. “You have created new jobs and new revenues for the city,” she said, “Yet right or wrong your success has also created tension.” Breed acknowledged the protestors outside, and she almost had me until she added, “But to them I say, ‘What is your solution?’”
Silicon Valley prides itself on a solutionist worldview. Founders are told to think of a problem and then build a company that solves it. They invent problems no one has just to say it’s been fixed. She should have asked the auditorium.