Recode Co-Founder Calls Out Silicon Valley Indifference to Social Issues
Kara Swisher to Startupfest attendees in Montreal: San Francisco is too disconnected.

Silicon Valley is making billions solving problems of convenience, such as instant food delivery, for “the 1%” while ignoring the social and economic problems of the urban ecosystem it depends on, Recode Co-Founder and Executive Editor Kara Swisher says.

Speaking on the second day of StartupFest in Montréal, Swisher called San Francisco “assisted living for millennials,” with conveniences such as instant food delivery provided through mobile apps by local startups working against a backdrop of homelessness and poverty.

She called on startups to break out of their “self-reinforcing” culture and affect the real world around them more positively.

This disconnect between Silicon Valley startups and San Francisco’s less fortunate residents gained global attention in 2014, when tech companies started providing buses to allow workers to commute to their campuses. The ease with which startup talent can commute has helped turn San Francisco into a “bedroom city.”

The social problems haven’t been completely ignored. A recent poll of San Francisco residents found that they identified homelessness as the number one social problem in the city. A startup founder who called the city’s homeless “grotesque” was excoriated for making his comments.

Swisher said she believes in the ability of startups and capitalism to solve social problems, a notion shared by fellow speaker Ari Gleisher. Gleisher, ex-of intelligence tech company Palantir, implored the audience to examine where they could do the most good in the world and aim their efforts carefully.

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