First came the bankers, and then — tech company CEOs? The New York Times has compiled a list of eligible single men who have founded Silicon Valley startups. After commenting on the men’s dating habits, the story delves into how hard it is for them to find love in San Francisco, where men outnumber women.
By most standards, these guys fit the profile of your stereotypical successful businessman eligible bachelor: they have money, power, conventional good looks, famous friends, first class seats on airplanes, and brains. By most standards, they aren’t too different from the Wall Street set. But now that the market has crashed and protestors have told us Wall Street is evil, we’re in of need another group of wealthy young men to hold up as an example of the country’s quintessentially most eligible dudes. Oh hey, there’s tech!
Lists like these have popped up numerous times over the past year or so, like on Silicon Valley blog the Valley Byte. Quora, a hub for tech-related discussion, is home to a lengthy debate about “the hottest male startup founder,” and Business Insider has covered the beat with dedication, even putting out a call for nominees. So this new Times piece? Inevitable. And the lists probably won’t go away any time soon. But let’s just take them for what they are: lists of single rich men who are more liked than they are hated. And, I should mention: they’re nearly all white, and all work for consumer-facing companies that everyone’s heard of. Nothing too techy, or us regular folk might get confused.
What differentiates this Times story from the rest is its focus on Silicon Valley’s gender imbalance. While San Fran is home to many successful tech dudes, the story notes, it’s lacks enough women for them to date. (This might also justify the inherently sexist nature of the piece — there aren’t enough women over there for the rich men to date or to start their own fabulously successful tech companies, presumably).
But, as the New York tech scene grows, more and more eligible tech bachelors are living outside of Silicon Valley. Tony Hsieh runs Zappos out of Las Vegas. Mashable and its CEO, Pete Cashmore, are headquarted in New York. Pete Cohler, formerly of Facebook and now of Benchmark Capital, just bought an apartment in New York, which the Times even acknowledges in their brief bio of him. (Women notably outnumber men at every age in New York.)
But San Francisco’s gender imbalance just seemed like an excuse for the Times to glorify and obsess over a new group of bachelors. Someone had to replace those guys in finance that screwed up our economy, after all, and tech executives are just right for These Times. Working for the government is decidedly uncool. And you can forget about being the heir to a family business, which seems entitled and lazy. But tech guys don’t represent something we’re told to hate — they represent something we’re told is cool.
Maybe it goes back to Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” motto and the fact that so many startups have modeled themselves after Google. Maybe it’s that Steve Jobs was a hippie at heart. Maybe it’s that Mark Zuckerberg wears hoodies and other startup fellas wear fun, colorful socks.
The media claims to idolize these tech CEOs because they supposedly represent a kinder, more “chill” kind of CEO. But that seems pretty absurd when you get down to it: certainly, these CEOs and founders are brilliant, but claiming our fascination with them stems largely from something other than their wealth and power would be a lie.
Look, for example, at the reactions to Mark Zuckerberg’s recent wedding to Priscilla Chan.[Media outlets and curious onlookers alike decided that Chan’s ring was too small, the wedding too simple, the honeymoon too cheap.
And Zuckerberg might be the exception. Some of his peers are just as, if not more extravagant, than their maligned corporate counterparts. Larry Ellison, who founded Oracle, and at age 67, appears on the Times list, has a $200 million, 453 foot yacht; The Wall Street Journal called him “the nation’s most avid trophy-home buyer.”
This doesn’t mean that Ellison or Zuckerberg or the rest of Silcon Valley’s tech set are evil, but tech startups have certainly cleverly positioned themselves as the antidote to everything that’s uncool and undesirable about corporate America. That’s sexy. So naturally, their founders become sexy too.