Michael Bloomberg, Geezer Tech Bro

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Bloomberg's technology startup was not typical. He always relied on New York City, on the one hand. It was in the early 1980s, and Bloomberg was 39, a general partner of the prominent Wall Street firm, Salomon Brothers. He had been a successful merchant who was then assigned to oversee the company's computer services.

One day, out of nowhere, Salomon's executive committee accepted a lucrative merger offer. Bloomberg and the other partners immediately received huge checks, his was for $ 10 million. Unlike most other partners, Bloomberg was told not to return to the merged company.

With a fat wallet but no job, Bloomberg decided to start a technology company that would give merchants the ability to use computers for analysis that separates smart businesses from fools. He had an unexpected financial gain to build a team and a business plan; The idea was personalized terminals with access to financial data and tools to compare investments and track changes in price over time, among other things.

It is fair to say that success depended on getting an important first customer, Merrill Lynch, and keeping expenses low by having the small team do much of the work for themselves. "Never before or since then did I have so much fun and was so challenging," he recalled in his 1997 book.

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In particular, Bloomberg relates how he and his team would install the terminals themselves for the first corporate clients. “In the middle of McDonald's old hamburger and mouse droppings, we drag wires from our computers to the keyboards and screens we were placing, placing the wires through the holes we drilled in other people's furniture , all without permission, violating all fire laws, building codes and union regulation in books, ”he writes. "It is surprising that we do not burn an office or get electrocuted. At the end of the day, at ten or eleven at night, we turned it on and saw how we created what we had created. It was very satisfying."

In this cheerful description of how to grow a startup, Bloomberg frankly looks like Zuckerbergian. What I was doing was important; The fire code and union regulations were tedious, inefficient and an obstacle to progress. The rules are for the ordinary, not for the extraordinary. Even so, it is unpleasant to read this arrogant approach to the law of a politician who has defended police surveillance of "stop and search," with his presumption of guilt that fell on young blacks.

Some others have pointed out this inconsistent attitude towards the violation of the rules, and the message must have reached Bloomberg. For the reissue of 2019 Bloomberg by Bloomberg, that passage has been changed. He has removed the phrase "violate all fire laws, building codes and union regulations in books" and replaced them with the most innocuous, "all without permission, without thinking of any fire laws or building codes." In the process, he has eliminated his offense against organized labor, while changing something intentional, violating fire laws and the like, into something improvised. "Your honor, I really didn't think about the question."

Not to over-analyze an editing option, but this question of intention is really central to the way we approach Silicon Valley and our leaders in general. There was also something elusive in that much-discussed phrase that emanated from Facebook: "Move fast and break things." Was Facebook breaking things on purpose, choosing that thing there to disarm, for example, offline friendships or democracy, to grow your business? Or was he just saying, don't pay attention to what you might be breaking? Things will be damaged, and that's fine.

Perhaps it is a sign of how serious the political system seems that so many are willing to put their hopes on a billionaire savior to face the (perhaps) billionaire president. One would think that, given his experience, Bloomberg would be able to untangle Silicon Valley control over our lives: our purchases, our conversations, our choices. He, if anyone, should be beyond his reach. Of course, he only seems to have that freedom because he earned billions of dollars in the same way.


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