Ever since I saw the Puppy Monkey Baby commercial during the Super Bowl, that bastardization of a creature has haunted my dreams. I haven't been able to sleep. I haven't been able to eat. I've only been able to drink Jameson out of the bottle, praying that it'll be enough to forget about what is clearly a genetically-engineered-Ewok-gone-wrong.
It hasn't worked. I must find a place to hide from the puppy monkey baby. Help me.
While I go looking for an underground bunker to wait out the inevitable Puppy Monkey Baby apocalypse, here are this week's Tech Caucus topics:
Another Unicorn stumbles. Or, in the case of Zenefits, the unicorn ran into the brick wall that is the law. Zenefits, a $4.5 billion Silicon Valley payroll and insurance giant, unceremoniously fired Co-founder and CEO Parker Conrad, whose "ready, fire, aim" approach to business worked great when Zenefits was a lowly startup trying to disrupt benefits, but put him and his entire company into legal trouble as it was supposed to mature. Buzzfeed's report that many Zenefits salespeople weren't licensed to sell insurance likely triggered regulatory inquiries that were leading to legal repercussions.
David Sacks, the legendary PayPal COO, Yammer founder and Zenefits COO, will take over the reigns as CEO. Conrad, for all his work, will no longer have any role at the company. He's even been kicked off the board. That's extremely rare for a founder-CEO transition and speaks to the volumes of trouble Zenefits actually faces for flipping the middle finger to the law.
Conrad's fall is stunning. I asked the Tech Caucus what they thought the #1 lesson startups and the tech industry can learn from Conrad Zenefits' failures. The wisdom fell into three categories.
From a caucus member: "When I sit down with entrepreneurs, one of my favorite questions to ask is, "Tell me about the biggest mistake you made." Almost always that mistake was not paying attention to culture sooner. It sounds like that certainly is the case here."
Unless you've been hiding in a bomb shelter for the inevitable #Trumpocalypse, you know that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders destroyed their opponents in the New Hampshire primary. With Clinton, Rubio, and most of the other candidates wounded, the action moves to Nevada and South Carolina. If voting happened today, Trump and Clinton would handily win both states.
Oh, and let's not forget about Mike Bloomberg, possibly the most serious Independent challenger in decades.
We'll eventually get to who the Tech Caucus supports for the presidency of the United States. This week, though, I asked them a slightly different question: "Which Presidential Candidate do you think would be best for the tech industry?" I asked the members to objectively look at who they thought would be best for tech, startups, and the ecosystem in general.
And the winner, by a 15% margin of victory, is...
Yes, former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg won the Tech Caucus straw poll with 45% of the vote. Hillary Clinton wasn't terribly far behind though with 30% of the vote, though. (I bet Hillary wishes she got this margin in New Hampshire.)
Most of the Caucus members cited Bloomberg's experience building a tech company as hugely beneficial to the tech industry. "He understands tech in a way that the others can't," says one member. "And no, he is not the same as the person I support for President."
"Look at what Bloomberg did for NYC Tech, enough said," declares another member. NYC Tech grew by leaps and bounds under Bloomberg's administration. He was the first mayor to name and empower a Chief Digital Officer, the incredibly talented Rachel Sterne Haot.
One member went a step farther, directly attributing his/her career to Bloomberg:
"I'm a direct beneficiary of Michael Bloomberg's New York, and my career would not be anywhere near where it is if he had not done such a phenomenal job at diversifying New York City's economy for the 21st century in the wake of the financial crisis. He courted and exalted start-ups in a very startup-averse city. I can't stress enough how unfriendly New York was to these kinds of companies before he took the reins. If he runs, he has my vote, and my money (though I doubt he needs it)."
That is one hell of an endorsement.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took second place in our poll. "Hillary is a change maker," one member simply states. "Because she knows how to manage an email server, independent of the government!" jokes another member of the Caucus. "Seriously though, she's tech-savvy and the Obama administration was successful in tech. She likely gleaned a lot from that."
And finally, one thoughtful member of the Caucus doesn't think there are any better choices:
"Most of why I am supporting Hillary is because I am voting against everyone else. I saw Hillary speak when I worked at ********, and she's smart and knowledgeable on the issues. Out of everyone on the playing field, I think she'll do the least damage. That said, income inequality will increasingly become an issue and I don't know if she has any real answers there."
Sorry, I had to censor the company -- gotta keep things anonymous here. :-)
Support for the other candidates as the one who'd be best for the tech industry:
Carly Fiorina:"Anything that's good for the country is good for the tech industry long term. Creating a basic social safety net and chipping away at corruption in politics is essential before the erosion and corrosion of U.S. institutions causes a catastrophic collapse."
(For the record, I personally think Fiorina did a terrible job at HP and is clearly unqualified for the Presidency. If you're going to pick someone from tech, pick Bloomberg.)
"Carly Fiorina came from the tech industry and understands it better than any other candidate. However, she is at best a long shot VP candidate. Same for Mike Bloomberg. None of the others know anything about tech, and are more likely to view us as robber capitalists."
It seems like the tech industry doesn't believe Washington D.C. understands it. This has been a common theme for years, even as companies like Google, SpaceX and Facebook have invested far more money into lobbying and courting political leaders. They are two different worlds."Honestly I don't think anyone is [best for tech]. I'd say Rand, but he is out."
This member stresses s/he doesn't have any issue with the Crunchies (they're "silly and fun"). Then again, this member also wouldn't be opposed to being named "Person of the Year." I think the point is that we all like getting awards and recognition, no matter where it comes from.
"This isn't Miss America. You should try to make amazing product, have happy customers and go after your target market. Every startup is unique and while there are certainly ones who excel in each industry and niche, I don't think it's particularly helpful to try to chose one 'winner' overall. It leads to us choosing the one who's gotten the most press or who we personally are more familiar with instead of anything more meaningful."
This week's Tech Caucus is sponsored by Puppy Monkey Baby. Because if I say the Puppy Monkey Baby is the sponsor, maybe the nightmares will stop.
(If you want to sponsor the Tech Caucus and get in front of hundreds of CEOs... you know who to email. First real sponsons start soon!)
Have a question you want me to ask the Tech Caucus? Have a suggestion for a new member of the Tech Caucus or an Interesting Link of the Week? Reply to this email or email me directly.
The Tech Caucus: Mark Achler, Jason L. Baptiste, Megan Berry, Niko Bonatsos, Sarah Buhr, Jason Calacanis, Vanessa Camones, Tracy Chou, Julie Crabill, Paige Craig, Don Dodge, Adam Draper, Josh Elman, Julie Fredrickson, Erin Griffith, Troy Henikoff, Daire Hickey, Ryan Hoover, David Hornik, Charles Hudson, Leila Janah, Olivia June, Richard Kerby, Aileen Lee, Loic Le Meur, Doug MacMillian, Jessica Mah, Jesse Middleton, Miyuki Matsumoto, Danielle Morrill, Nathaniel McNamara, Nathalie Nuta, Jeremiah Owyang, Chris Saad, Raju Sagiraju, Juan Scarlett, Matt Schlicht, Robert Scoble, Marcy Simon, Jon Swartz, Jana Trantow, Jennifer Van Grove, Kurt Wagner, Robin Wauters, Mike Weiksner, Brian Wong, Michelle Zatlyn.