A Short Story About Venture Capitalists

Caine said this, which I agree with 100%: [aff]

The rich are different, they operate by different rules. I have no particular reason to think they don’t ‘share’ such stuff with others of their kind. *shrug* Their lives don’t impact with reality much; they have the ability and power to shape their realities.

They have different motives, too. Eventually, money becomes a way of exerting power. I was going to say “… or acquiring stuff, or settling scores, or buying privacy” but those are just alternate ways of exerting power.

When I was first talking to venture capitalists, in 1997, I was comparing notes with Rob K., an early employee at Sun Microsystems, who had more experience working with the rich than I did. I don’t remember how we got onto the topic, but I think I said something about how I didn’t understand the motives of the rich. And Rob replied something like:

You need to understand something: for the rich, everything is about keeping score. All this hard work you’re doing, trying to start a company so you can build something and employ some nerds to do good work – you’re just a plaything to them. Once they invest in you (or don’t) they’ll forget your start-up ever existed in a week. The only reason that they do this is so they can tell one of their buddies…

Rob then mimed stepping up to an imaginary golf tee with an imaginary club, addressing the ball, and taking a swing. As he went through the move, he continued.

… “You know that company I put $1m into last year? They just did an IPO and I made a 20-fer.”

Then, Rob mimed watching the ball complete its arc, and shrugged as if the subject no longer intererested him. He finished: you’re just a baseball card.

He was totally right. I’ve sat in I don’t know how many meetings with venture capitalists since Rob’s explanation – maybe 100 – but I’ve heard them say things like, “I invest in companies for fun, for the pleasure of seeing them succeed.” But I know, when they say that, that “the pleasure of seeing them succeed” boils down to a 1-second brag in a golf game.


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1997 – Network Flight Recorder, Inc. I spun it off from V-one corp after we took that company public, borrowed $2.5 million from some rich guys who exactly matched the stereotypical rich golfers Rob K. was talking about (one even owned his own club) (and I don’t mean he owned a 9 iron).


  1. says

    And there you have it. The rich are different is an adage for a reason. It’s a rare thing indeed when they are brought into the plane of reality; when that does happen, it’s usually a matter of law, and that doesn’t happen often.

    They know they can do most anything and get away with it, because they know they can pay most people off.

  2. says

    are they edible?

    Free range venture capitalists are well-fed by executive chefs on sushi, fine veggies from Whole Foods, and often marinated with expensive wines and herbs. I’d say probably pretty yummy, except most of the meat is probably offshore.

  3. says

    They know they can do most anything and get away with it, because they know they can pay most people off.

    Why else would anyone want so much money?

    I STILL haven’t managed to find that short story about the rich being different. It doesn’t appear to be Joe Haldeman after all (I even re-read All My Sins Remembered to be sure!) anyhow, it’s a really weird story about a guy who meets and falls in love with a mysterious low-key woman, and they spend a happy couple days in a little beach town in the caribbean, bumming around restaurants and stuff while she recruits him (oh! Maybe it’s Buying Time!) and after a while he realizes that the little town they were hanging out in had been constructed for their low-key weekend, and all the villagers were actors and the cook at the shanty restaurant was a famous chef and…

  4. Siobhan says

    The rich don’t have to be mustache-twirling comic book villains. They can do plenty of damage just by being clueless.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    Per Wikiquotes:

    Hemingway is responsible for a famous misquotation of Fitzgerald’s. According to Hemingway, a conversation between him and Fitzgerald went:

    Fitzgerald: The rich are different from you and me.

    Hemingway: Yes, they have more money.

    This never actually happened; it is a retelling of an actual encounter between Hemingway and Mary Colum, which went as follows:

    Hemingway: I am getting to know the rich.

    Colum: I think you’ll find the only difference between the rich and other people is that the rich have more money.

    The full quotation is found in Fitzgerald’s words in his short story “The Rich Boy” (1926), paragraph 3: “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft, where we are hard, cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand.”