Judgment of Social Media Entrepreneurship
In recent times, it seems that there has been continual negativity against social media and social network-based entrepreneurship. They’ve been continually criticized for adding minimal value to society and being opportunistic. Other times, they’re viewed as young people who just want to start a company for the sake of starting a company. Indeed, I agree that social media and social network-based problems are not the most important issues that our society faces today. I think that much of the criticism of the changed VC landscape and the resulting short-termed thinking of investors is quite valid, but I believe that the criticism sometimes goes a little far when it begins to condemn the individuals who are starting these companies (which I’ll refer to for the rest of this post as social media startups).
The primary criticism of social media startups is that they are not adding much value to society or the economy, and that their talents, capital, and efforts would be much better spent solving “real” problems like education, energy, or our healthcare system. While this is certainly true, it’s also quite an unfair criticism to make. Before giving any proper critique, one should always consider the likely alternatives to the object of criticism — or else they risk wasting their breath on something that can’t be easily changed or being unfair by criticizing something that, although flawed, turns out to be the better than most other options. I believe that most criticism of social media startups fails to do the latter.
It is true that entrepreneurs working on social media startups could be working on harder, more meaningful problems, but in reality it’s much more likely that wouldn’t be doing either. Starting a company is quite difficult, and if they weren’t working on their social media startup, they would probably be at a regular job at some company or startup, perhaps at sort of marketing, sales, or business development role. Honestly, given that alternative, starting a company creates much more value: It creates jobs and generates value for businesses or consumers. I think many people jump on the bandwagon to knock on social media startups and didn’t take the time to really consider what the alternative would be.
Most importantly of all, critics fail to realize what the social media startup sets up the entrepreneurship for in his or her future. Most successful entrepreneurs after having exited their company will return to start another business, but with greater aspirations to make more impact and create an even greater legacy. Having already achieved success and financial freedom, these entrepreneurs will now invest their knowledge, experience, and capital to tackle more meaningful problems in society.
It seems absurd that we should condemn these entrepreneurs for not attempting difficult problems that most of us would not even attempt! We hold them to much too high of a standard, when most of us allow ourselves to get away without the greatest of ambitions. Rather, we should give them our encouragement and support, so that they may grow, learn, and succeed in order to continue to contribute more and more to society in meaningful ways as time passes. Wouldn’t we want the same for ourselves? After all, it’s always hard work to create value.