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zaterdag 8 november 2014

The Start Up Trap

How the Start Ups are making the Rich richer and the Poor poorer, and how this affects the world we live in.

I thought I was a social activist. I thought I might be making a difference. I thought, quite probably, very wrong. Suddenly, looking at all my, and my friends activities, I got worried.
When you are either a Start Up, Small Creative Enterprise, Freelancer or an Independent Professional, you may have a the same problem. You/we are very probably helping inequality in the world to rise. Yes, rise! Here is how they/we° do it, and what is the consequence of it. I'll explain how the actions of all these small enterprises together enhance the problem and cover up consequences. And I'll show what needs to be done about it. For if we don't change our behavior, we will stay part of the problem. What problem? Right.

The Widening Gap (the playing field)

The West is in decline, but that decline doesn't seem to count for us all. The Rich, especially in the West, are currently getting richer in an explosive way. 85 individuals now own as much money as the whole bottom half of the global population. 85 persons. Bill Gates daily gets more rich than he has given away in ten years.

Also in the West is the number of poor rising and a lot of poverty, still hidden, is slowly getting out in the open. Governments are getting worried about the number of people in debt, below the poverty line and even hungry. Yet, big multinationals seem to avoid more and more regulation and somehow end up owning more and more. Governments seem to have less and less money to spend on social change, and differences among ethnic and cultural groups are on the rise. Lobbyists own more and more politicians, for buying a few officials is totally worth the millions it costs as compared to the billions it helps to make.

And near the bottom of the money pyramid we find many enterprising, positive and constructive passionate, individuals trying to make a change. And the worrying things is, I fear with less nuance than I hoped for, that they are very much a collaborative party for the rich and industries at the top.
They make the rich richer and don't bring the change about they claim or hope to bring. And here's why:

How the Start Ups enrich the Rich:

1. Start Ups are the new self organizing poor.

Among many Start Ups there's a great culture of Open Source, mutual help, of getting smarter at things doing cheaper or easier, especially when there's little money around. This sounds and feel innovative, which it is, and it gives a great sense of meaning. At the same time this all comes down to one thing: together we are getting smarter at being poor.  A quite valid attitude, but not what you once aspired to.
Exchanges among starters are often full of mutual help. I love that. I do it too. But, and this is the crux, this mutual niceness has a dark consequence.

2. Our Money goes mostly only upwards

In the Start Up circles a lot of time is spend, to help each other out. Little or no money is being exchanged. We share services. Although this is, often necessary, to be able to train, build websites, travel, exchange knowledge, help each other out with diversity of qualities, it means that all the money, you do spend, goes to the rich. Yes, most of the money that you do spend is all going up in the money pyramid towards the haves. You pay for your house, your car, your shopping, all expenses that in the end mostly benefit the owners of big companies, except perhaps what you buy very local and or green. And even then, the big boys in green, are, when it comes down to it, very often the same companies, only with a different product line, or the same money paradigm with a different flavour towards the environment.

3. Start Ups let themselves be enthusiastically misused by big business.

Rarely Start Ups strike it very rich. Mostly big businesses buy up the most successful Start Ups, or their ideas. Many Start Ups just hope for this chance of cashing in on their ideas, read, hope to sell out to makes millions; millions that make the rich billions.
But money can also be used to prevent Start Ups it ever getting made. In the Game Industry there are quite a few stories of consciously side tracking possible competitors, like through buy up and then fire everyone a little later.

Also big businesses 'lovingly' hand out free gadgets to popular trend setters, so they'll make new products popular. In short in exchange for a free gadget, you'll do the work of a professional marketeer for free. This trick is used from the introduction of the iPad to now placing chips in the body. The latter one being the dark dream of totalitarian governments in science fiction stories, is now enthusiastically experimented by hip techies. The same techies who play around with drones, that are then used to improve the killer drones, sold by the arms industry to be used by some governments and perhaps soon by gangs.

So basically the inventors at the bottom have stopped working for big contracts, work without hardly any research money. They outsmarted themselves by self organizing so much that big business only has the cost of buying up the most successful discoveries and innovations and let the rest muddle along. Thrilled by their own inventiveness and blind for consequences, many Start Ups thus enrich no other than the Rich.

4. How Businesses, Governments and Banks rob you daily.

Big Business first off shored all (our) work to China. This let to a huge loss of jobs here, while profits for them soared. While the business got the profits, the majority of the money stayed in China to cover all the costs (way more than the profits) Now the Chinese use their income to buy up many natural resources and often don't need us any more. No wonder the European multinationals apply for all these big European funds to stay in business. In short once again we pay for their existence.
The Banks in the mean time also steal from us, daily. You not only pay too much interest on mortgages and loans (if you get any); they also invent money with guesses about what you, or our economy, might earn in the future. In short without asking you, they turn their estimation of your future profits, into investment money and when they screw up, yes, then we all pay for their gamble, based on our collective income. Yes, you pay to keep banks floating who invented money that wasn't there at all, without your consent. Governments knowingly support this theft. And we, we are silent, for we don't care about the slow bureaucrats, we are people of action and we are making a difference for individuals, while our rights, liberties and money is being squandered by banks, governments and the big businesses eager to buy your best ideas.
And now with the secret TTIP or TTP agreement, where huge companies can sue countries for damaging their profits, even when harmful products are forbidden or restricted, we have become part of an economy that really might need a new revolutionary or protest generation.

5. Start Ups are positive and collaborative.

This seems a very beautiful and it is too. Basically Start Ups seem the hope of the future. They indeed help resilience to grow, and sustainability to become smarter. Except since they don't, yet, bring much big shifts happening, they are basically a problem (work for poor pay) that doesn't want to be seen as a problem. For governments this positivity means that these poor, don't complain, self sustain and basically stay of the radar until they hit rock bottom. Hell, most governments don't even want to invest in them. Because unlike the big companies they lack strong pressure groups, read lobbyists, that protect their interests. Thus they make some big issues invisible and only the already powerful organizations with lobbyists get big support.

What to do about it?

Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI, wondered why the poor didn't eat cake, when they didn't have bread. The same idiocy is the opinion that when people are poor, they must be stupid or didn't work hard enough. The fact that near Madrid there's a slum rising with many academic trained people in it, counters this idea. No individual can be blamed for poverty that hits a whole society. Anyone may have options, and the options of the young entrepreneurs seem a bit better, but on the whole, they must seek to maximize their impact.

Thus the Starters and Young Entrepreneurs seem to have little choice. To survive they need to keep self organizing smarter and to have an income they need to sell out. And in their enthusiasm they are misused by smart big organizations that know how to play this group.
Think about this: The game rules of society created by the Rich, favor the Rich. Why anyone could cut down age old trees for a few dimes, own genetic codes of seeds, monopolize important medications, harm nature without punishment is beyond me. It just doesn't make sense. We are the world together. We act if ownership is right, when it comes to our most important assets. Soon we may have war about waters, food, oil, while we could use all that money that the Rich are hoarding to solve all these problems way more peaceful.
So, what can the Starting Entrepreneurs do about it?

A: Support local businesses, strengthen resilience and self support.

Try to let as little money go upward as possible. Start producing, join the makers revolution, this being the 3d printer technology that might make many industries obsolete. All the tech to generate your own clean energy, produce much more food yourself, recycle smarter is there. Use it. Share it. Become a contributing member of your community. Keep on becoming smarter poor, for Europe will probably be declining for quite a few years to come. And if you are already green and local, make it more fun, attractive to join your party. For aliveness is what so many in normal work as missing and longing for.

B: Be way more Disruptive towards the Rich.

B.1 Self organize the new economy from the bottom. Upset their economy with new business models and new economic models. Bitcoin is just the start, but can be done so much better. And why aren't there yet any big games that try out totally different economic models? So many science fiction games and not one innovative economy among it!! Strange, or is it because it's big business making those games? Why aren't you experimenting more with new games, new rules, that target to change the game in favor of the current poor?

B.2 Think holistic. How is my work benefitting whom? What could bad people do with my innovations? The CIA and NSA are all the time thinking in scenarios what terrorists might do, with new technology. Why aren't we thinking enough what they (both terrorists and those agencies) might do with it? Invent from the onset out stuff that is for everyone. Some open source projects like the new Tesla, make such moves and I think it's brilliant. In the end, we are society together. We own our land together. We should all co-own our future and make it impossible for a happy few to own anything that belongs, or should belong to us all*.

B.3 Push to make money trickle down. There's enough evidence showing that a healthy trickling down of money keeps societies stable. The current increasing pressure between religions, immigrants, fear of terrorism, sadly takes away the deeper issue of our increasing poverty and the daily pressure this gives to many families. Thus we need to invoke more trickling down. The point being an big healthy middle class keeps the peace. They must be invited to hand over money they owe us. Basic income for everyone and government funding for Start Ups could help a lot. In the end, it will be much safer for the Rich too. Because when they start hiding in gated communities, violence is only one street away: first for everyone else, and then towards them. So start to get heard, for some good shouting now, can prevent worse shouting later.

B.4 Make the points noticed. Make sure the governments start to know the good they get from the self sustaining positive people. Make them pay for it. Make them protect and support them, so that it becomes attractive to join the new entrepreneurs. Demand your government to be supportive and inclusive to everyone. I once read a letterª that asked all this money invented by the banks, over our backs, to be payed back. It should have renewed attention.

B.5 Organize. While most entrepreneurs I know don't like to be part of organizations, especially when it just costs time and money for the organization. And because often the people running it are mostly the kind of bosses, that made Starters go independent, we tend to avoid these organizations. But loose networks can become strong too. New approaches such as collective intelligence, swarm leadership and new network tools can help to make organizing cool and effective. Learning how to make it work, might just be the innovation democracy and society needs to start working again. Use this challenge to invent just that.

B.6 Educate. Educate anyone you can to learn think critically. Teach every child that cares for nature, for the world, for justice, that it should not be giving in to the cynicism of the adults. How? By being the example. By trying with heart and soul to make a real difference. Support them where you can and, even better, let their sharp sense of justice, fairness, caring be your guiding flame.

C: Play a different game.

The rich get richer because they play a certain game very very well. Don't use their techniques and don't admire their successes. They, most likely, play very disconnected from the world. Profits are more important than thousands of poor workers with no fair wages and little to none options out. Wars are incited, murders committed along the line, wittingly or unwittingly to the Richest, just to protect their interests. The thing is we are destroying our natural resources, ecological habitat out of disconnectedness, because we think great strategies are better than peace of mind. Because we think being successful, being a hero and awesome is what we should strive for. No, we should strive to be connected to our planet, to our inner peace and wisdom. Or free after Einstein: “No problem can be solved with the same consciousness as that created it.” Even when this means we should not see them as the enemy. They aren't. They are most likely lost souls, caught up in a theatre without an exit. Help them to find it. And foremost find that exit for yourself.

Be the Change

Does this make sense? Perhaps. I hope so and I fear so. Will it be easy? No. Will this be challenged? Yes. Probably foremost by Starters that act like Ostriches, or feeling that their cool and independent image should not be questioned. And especially sustainable Start Ups may feel offended that their good intentions are attacked. My point is, when it does, look real for once. For creating a safe corner for yourself and your loved ones is not enough anymore. We live in a world where nature soon will have regional system collapses, through a economic system, that since the fall of communism thinks itself the answer to everything. Real change is now more needed than ever.

In the end it's like Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world”. That may be corny, but he, initially on his own, kicked the British out of India. Thus we might see our own odds, against the 85 Richest individuals who own as much as the bottom half of the whole global population, a little bit less impossible. Only one of us has to find the key that will change the game totally, when we are prepared to follow it, when it's there. Just try to be the one. I hope I at the least showed a bit of the key hole and some of the land behind it.


° ) The word 'our' here reads for all Start Ups, young entrepreneurs or perhaps any independent professional. And yes, I am part of the problem too. When I did see it this way, I didn't like that sight at all. But I fear it's more true and important to share, than my discomfort. So here's the arrow to my own contribution as Entrepreneur in the hope we'll be able to find a way out of it.
*) No, I am not a communist. I like having some stuff to come home to. But anyone with more than 10 million seems to lose all moral sense and easily think themselves above the law. So I would make that as an upper private possession. Heck, I could probably live very rich from even 2 million (one for a house, the rest for everything else in relative luxury). On the other hand, why guys at the top can decide their own bonus, or raise, has always eluded me. Wouldn't it be better it the bottom half decided about bonuses. That might bring a very different incentive.
ª) The letter can be found on this page. It is in Dutch and called “Brief aan mijn Bankdirecteur”


Bruce Sterling explains how Start Ups make the Rich Richer. Watch from minute 7:00 Same idea, different reasoning and different ideas for next steps.
Ana Jain shows what soon will be the new 'normal' and some innovative jumps that might end up very scary. At the least she created for me a link why these guys and their drone play, might unwillingly be working for free for the weapons industry.
Facts on the unequal money division. According to Oxfam 85! individuals own as much money as the bottom half of the Global population. That is insane, and we all know it.

More how banks create money. Funny, not.

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