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Steve's ITK: Keeping it real


Steve's ITK

January 21 · Issue #10 · View online
Steve's In The Know: Everything I published recently, commentary you won't find elsewhere, write-ups of events I attended or spoke at, and industry rumours.

Photo credit: Business Insider's James Cook
Opening thought: Authenticity
Like a lot of people, I wasted much of yesterday watching the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, which, despite being trailed heavily by the UK news media, was a total snooze-fest.
Even by his own low standards, the Trump delivered a painstakingly laboured speech, and one certainly not befitting the occasion. This was book-ended by people praying for the future of America, quite literally. It was the first time I’ve watched a U.S. presidential inauguration live on television and I found it quite surreal.
Afterwards, the news switched to political and media punditry, asking how we got here and what it all means. It is worth remembering that Trump’s candidacy was initially treated as a complete joke, something the BBC’s Newsnight did a brilliant job of juxtaposing with his victory in the intro to last night’s programme – watch it here.
Meanwhile, many have framed Trump’s successes in terms of 2016 being the “authenticity election”. The idea being that, in a political era saturated by spin, image consultants and career politicians, a candidate that ‘says what they believe’ rather than 'what people want to hear’ stands a good chance of winning.
“Authenticity is everything in politics. Once you learn to fake it, you’re golden.” - George Burns
Of course, authenticity is in the eye of the beholder. I’d argue that there is nothing authentic about Donald 'drain the swamp’ Trump, but undoubtedly the appearance of authenticity is a very potent thing indeed.
That’s why I found this week’s Bloomberg expose of Mark Zuckerberg’s image management practices quite pertinent. The report – shock, horror – reveals that “a handful of Facebook employees manage communications just for him, helping write his posts and speeches”. For almost any other CEO of a large Silicon Valley tech company, such a revelation would be a complete non-story.
However, putting to one side the fact that some believe Zuck has political ambitions of his own and that getting caught being inauthentically authentic isn’t a great start, the entire mission of Facebook is to “make the world more open and connected” – a mission nauseatingly repeated by the company’s founder over the years at every opportunity.
Defending the accusation that Facebook helps spread “fake news,” which in turn contributed to a Trump victory, Zuckerberg (or a member of his PR team) recently posted that more than 99 per cent of what people see on the social network is “authentic”. It’s not clear if the same can now be said of Zuck’s own posts!
Bonus: Two other media tidbits this week:
1) The BBC News’ media editor Amol Rajan has written about how British newspapers cover Brexit and what he terms the “industrialisation of confirmation bias”.
2) The founder and editor of The Register, Drew Cullen, was interviewed on a recent podcast by the Press Gazette where he had a few choice words to say on how Google and Facebook are stealing ad dollars, and the current state of tech journalism.
“… publications value access an awful lot and mostly will play ball. We have this grotesque situation where large swathes of the tech press and general press are fawning over these gigantic Silicon Valley firms who are led by people on the spectrum who have no social responsibility and have infected the body politic.”
Things I wrote this week
Peanut is a new startup from Deliveroo co-founder and former Badoo deputy CEO
Deliveroo begins UK trial of subscription service for restaurant food delivery
Retro Patents turns famous inventions into art you can buy
Pipedrive, a CRM platform to help SMBs sell more, closes $17M Series B led by Atomico
Timekit wants to make it easy to build your own online booking system
Fraugster, a startup that uses AI to detect payment fraud, raises $5M
My 1st Years, a startup that sells personalised gifts for babies and children, raises further £5M
Closing thought: How many VCs does it take to change a CEO?
Which London VC is trying to find a new CEO for three of its portfolio companies? For once, I’m not being rhetorical, I don’t actually have the answer.
My question is prompted by a post to the ‘London Startups’ Facebook group by a headhunter who works for executive search firm Execuzen.
The startups are said to be in the payments, gaming/VR, and consumer space, respectively. And, we’re told, it’s the founders who want to replace themselves in order to take the business to the “next stage”.
Bonus: Departing founders are a lot like drummers. Nobody quite knows why or how they left.
Ask me anything
Presuming readers of this newsletter bite – that’s you, by the way – I’m going to experiment with taking questions from the floor. Ask me anything tech industry, media or career-related, and if I have a decent answer I’ll publish the reply in next week’s newsletter.
Get in touch
Want to continue the conversation? Just hit reply to this email – I answer every single ITK email I receive.
Please also forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues who might enjoy it. More subscribers and increased open rates makes me happy.
Till next time,
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