My phone rang. It was Oswald, in a panic.
“You gotta get me out of here, man.”
“Look, I know that doing a Java start-up is no fun these days, but I just don’t have anything for you. Even Big Bob had trouble finding something when Turnover finally turned over.”
“No, you don’t understand. It’s horrible. The VCs had a fight. For the past month we’ve had a different CEO every week. Last week they brought in a psychiatrist who interviewed everybody. Have you ever been head-shrinked on the job?”
“Have you ever been asked by one VC to spy on another VC?”
“They disappeared nine people last week. They were just gone, no notice, no goodbyes, just cleaned-out cubies and disabled accounts. It’s like living in fucking Nicaragua, man.”
Oswald is a developer I respect; he’s got a good sense for design, but he doesn’t get all purist and try to ship a year-late perfect diamond. The folks who work with him respect him. He ships nice, solid stuff that doesn’t shine unless it has to. I told him I’d see what I could do.
It turns out there’s not a whole lot you can do for someone living in Nicaragua. The VCs in question were pretty shady; some Taiwanese PC manufacturer and another group who generally invested in banks got together and thought it’d be a good idea to fund a video game start-up. In Java. I wondered if Oswald had been straight with me.
“Our president is a pathological liar, the marketing guys can’t change their PowerPoint slides without ducking into the bathroom for a toot, and half the staff are contract slaves from overseas. They got all excited about Software Patterns. Last week, everything had to be a factory. Before that it was flyweights and singletons. The guy who runs the engineering show here is the Elron Hubbard of cargo-cult programming, and I think if you disagree with him, it’s …” Oswald make a sound like “Shhhlick!”
Imagine you are a VC who has funded a product that is completely out of control. You can’t get straight answers from anyone. What do you do? You pull the plug, of course. But first you head-shrink all the employees to find out the truth; you’ve been lied to, you want to find out by whom.
Oswald managed to bail to another start-up (not doing Java), and the disaster he left imploded a few months later. The names and products have been changed to protect the etc., etc.
Welcome to Silly Valley.