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Anarchists Pitch Google on a World-Changing Idea: Give Us Your Money


The protestors who showed up at Kevin Rose’s house this weekend say they hate the tech set. They passed out fliers calling Rose, a partner at Google Ventures, a parasite. According to an accompanying manifesto posted online by a group calling itself the Counterforce, the culture of tech companies is hopelessly misogynist, their products antisocial, and their impact on San Francisco’s economy destructive.

Then, like any enterprising San Franciscan who finds himself in the presence of a prominent venture capitalist, Counterforce had a pitch. The protest group requested that Google (GOOG) put a large amount of money toward an idea that, in true Silicon Valley style, is sure to change the world. The request? Put $3 billion into an anarchist organization:

“This money will then be used to create autonomous, anti-capitalist, and anti-racist communities throughout the Bay Area and Northern California. In these communities, whether in San Francisco or in the woods, no one will ever have to pay rent and housing will be free. With this three billion from Google, we will solve the housing crisis in the Bay Area and prove to the world that an anarchist world is not only possible but in fact irrepressible. If given the chance, most humans will pursue a course towards increased freedom and greater liberty.”

The $3 billion sum is considerably higher than most investments Google makes. Google Venture’s largest investment came last year, when it led a $258 million round for Uber. But Google itself did have more than $60 billion in cash and liquid investments at the end of last year, so the company could afford to put some of it into an audacious attempt to form new types of in-person social networks in the Californian redwoods.

The anarchists, perhaps knowing that people like Rose don’t invest in ideas so much as they invest in people, acknowledged that they may have to pivot before they hit on the perfect model for their utopia. “It would be wise to give us three billion to see if we fail,” they wrote.

At the same time, Counterforce eschewed some pitching basics. They never referred to a “deck,” there’s no mention of how they can keep their costs down by leveraging Amazon (AMZN) Web Services, and they referred to the person they’re pitching as “not just another techie asshole, but rather a meta-leech funding and profiting off the gentrification of San Francisco.”

Maybe the unorthodox style could work in the protestors’ favor. This is California, after all, which has always prided itself on rejecting the buttoned-up etiquette of the East Coast, where you wear pinstripes and closed-toed shoes and don’t generally call someone a leech and ask for $3 billion on the same day. In any case, you can’t help but hear an echo of the enterprising techies in the words of their declared enemies. Maybe the seeds of the solution to San Francisco’s class war lie in a recognition that they’re not so different after all.

Brustein is a writer for Businessweek.com in New York.

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