A dispiriting article appeared on one of the German tech blogs this week, intended, one can only presume, to put a dampener on the coming week of start-up conferences and events in Berlin and Munich. It wasn’t so much the poor writing that irritated me as the lack of judgment: the piece spectacularly missed the prevailing mood in Germany at the moment, which is buoyant with anticipation and enthusiasm for some of the great ideas coming out of the aforementioned cities – together with Cologne, of course, which our friends at the Pirate Summit would have us walk the plank for overlooking.
Perhaps the author couldn’t afford a ticket to one of the events in question. Perhaps he wasn’t invited to another. Maybe the one he wanted to go to finished way past his bedtime. It’s not for me to speculate on the origins of this man’s Puritanical opinions.
But the piece did raise a valid point, albeit in a “question to which the answer is no” sort of way. Is this extraordinary circus of panels, speeches, parties and awards ceremonies just so much hot air, massaging the egos of founders who are yet to accomplish anything? Well, yes, actually, but the writer doesn’t seem to realise that particularly in a nascent scene like Germany, that’s a good thing: an entirely necessary injection of energy and joy.
It’s not the tech press’s job to act as the fun police, laying down the law about how, where and at what expense the technology industry chooses to congratulate itself. We’re here to hold founders and companies to account: to criticise them when they screw up and to analyse their successes, not to pass judgment on how they choose to galvanise their ecosystems. If the tech industry wants to throw itself parties, what business is it of ours to whinge?
By all means, call out a founder who grandstands on the stage at DLD or Davos, swanking around like a multinational chief executive when all they’ve built is a rubbish photo sharing app. By all means, call out the interfering, counterproductive angel investors (and the venture capitalists, too, if you have the balls for it). By all means, take the technology industry to task for the ineluctable erosion of privacy and the constant misuse of our personal data.
But when presented with a free pass to a booze-up that helps everyone feel part of something, or when invited into an invitation-only gathering of brilliant minds, or when given the opportunity to sit next to Jack Dorsey while watching Cheryl Cole, why not seize it with both hands, in good grace, and enjoy the sight of an effervescent young industry fizzing with energy? Besides, in my experience, watching the entire industry get sozzled around you gives you enough column material for a month…