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Arrogance Is Good: In Defense of Silicon Valley

The tech industry’s elite have a reputation for arrogance. Do they deserve it?
Arrogance Is Good: In Defense of Silicon Valley
Photo illustration by 731

Sam Altman sits behind his desk with his knees pulled up to his chest, eating dried apricots. He’s 29, but even the most laissez-faire bartender would card him. His hand is forever grabbing his hair while he thinks, making it stick up in Einsteinian tufts. He says his main interest is indeed physics, though when he got to Stanford University he majored in computer science because “I already knew a lot about physics.” His T-shirt reads “make something people want,” the slogan of Y Combinator, the accelerator he runs. In exchange for 7 percent equity, it hands out $120,000 and three months of Wi-Fi, coffee, parking, and free advice to brand-new startups. Airbnb and Dropbox are a couple of its successes. Asked why people think Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs are such jerks, Altman finishes an apricot, twists some hair between his fingers, and says, “It’s not helped by the large number of arrogant f-‍‍-‍‍-s in Silicon Valley.”

Behind this week’s cover
David Brandon Geeting for Bloomberg Businessweek