The Problem with Silicon Valley CEO Excess, in 15 Sentences

It's almost too perfect: The CEO of a quintessential Silicon Valley SoMoLo app — that's social/mobile/local for the rest of you — presents the perfect picture of Silicon Valley startup richesse in a bite-size, 11-question long new Q&A over at Vanity Fair. Indeed, it takes Dave Morin of Path just the 15 sentences printed in his responses for the personal "My Phone" interview series to encapsulate all the money that young tech execs throw around, with or without a business model. It's enough to make you want to throw your phone at the wall, that Yahoo kid be damned. "I have two iPhones, one for day and one for the night. When the day phone runs out, the night phone takes over. I never have to worry," Morin says. The co-founder of the circle-of-friends social networking app also commutes to work using the expensive car service app Uber, at least on occasion: "It got me to work this morning." And presumably that goes for other mornings, too, all of which is a little exorbitant. (There's more in the mini-interview, which we should repeat is about the apps on his iPhone, if you can stomach it.)

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Sure, this thirtysomething is the head honcho of a startup that maybe you've heard of by now. But Path isn't exactly the Facebook of Facebook clones. It has a measly 6 million users. (For comparison, Instagram has 100 million monthly active users.) Path does have some "revenue streams," selling photo filters (found for free on a bajillion other similar apps), but they are "relatively limited," as Wired's Mike Issac. Path has hinted at a subscription service, but as Wired's Mat Honan notes: "it's unclear how that would work or who would subscribe." In other words, just like so many other Social Mobile Local app copycats, Path isn't rolling in the dough. But because of the multi-millions in venture capital funding his startup has received, Dave Morin can still act like he is. 

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Which is not to pick on this guy and his iPhone, necessarily: Morin, of course, is just symbolic of a larger class shift still unfolding as a result of the latest tech bubble. It's a new nouveau riche that pretends to eschew extreme wealth, while still managing to spend in excess. That's great for a very certain type of economy — namely, the insular tech bubble economy. The gap between the rich and poor minorities is increasing, for example. In fact, it's having a lot of deep effects on the Bay Area, as Ellen Cushing explains in this feature for the East Bay Express. "The very rich have always, to a greater or lesser degree, been guilty of excess, but what's changed is that the Bay Area's new wealth doesn't necessarily have the perspective, the experience, or the commitments of the group it's replacing," she writes. "And that brings with it a whole host of disparate side effects."