Why Freada Kapor Klein thinks there’s a moral crisis in Silicon Valley

Every week, it seems, brings new ethical questions about Silicon Valley.

A seemingly endless rash of sexual scandals in the venture community. Twitter supposedly used by anonymous Russian trolls to rig the American election. A straight-faced Mark Zuckerberg denying Facebook has a problem with fake news. Uber banned in London and vilified everywhere else. Google guilty of anti-trust violations. Apple and Amazon fined billions of dollars for not paying their taxes.

So is there a moral crisis in Silicon Valley?

Yes, there is. At least according to Freada Kapor Klein, a founding partner at the Oakland based venture firm Kapor Capital, a forty year veteran of the tech industry and a long time critic of Silicon Valley excess.

The problem, Kapor Klein says, is that whereas in the past tech was “forward thinking”, it is now “dominated by greed”. The absence of what Kapor Klein calls a “moral compass” has been caused, she says, by the Silicon Valley “bubble” of white men whose ethos of moving fast and breaking things fails to take responsibility for their actions. And that’s why, she admits, she is “scared” by the idea of Mark Zuckerberg running for President.

One solution to this crisis, Kapor Klein says, is offering what she calls an “alternative moral axis” to the dominant Silicon Valley model. And she cites Kapor Capital — with partners that include the current Maryland Gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous and the former Kleiner Perkins investor Ellen Pao — as a roadmap for a more ethical future. Kapor Capital, she explains, has funded over a hundred for-profit companies that are trying to bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots.  “Here in Oakland,” she thus boasts of her East Bay firm, “we want tech to be done right.”

Many thanks to the folks at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce for their help in the production of this interview.