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‘I wanted to hit a nerve’: How one entrepreneur exposed Silicon Valley’s anxieties

“Most CEOs I know are deeply depressed, often,” Sunil Rajaraman says on Recode Decode.

Christopher Michel

Sunil Rajaraman didn’t plan to go viral. After texting back and forth with a friend about Silicon Valley stereotypes in August, he hastily formed them into a blog post called “This Is Your Life in Silicon Valley,” firing off his first draft on the blogging platform Medium.

To his surprise, a lot of people read it — more than a million of them, Rajaraman said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher.

“Just beneath the surface, this is what people feel,” he said. “And I think a lot of the writing in the Valley right now is pretty surface-level. I wanted to hit a nerve. I wanted people to read this and say, ‘This is me!’”

He said most of the tech press and people working in startups try to put a happy face on everything, when in fact their positivity masks deep anxieties.

“In reality, most CEOs I know are deeply depressed, often,” Rajaraman said. And he has some personal experience to draw from: In early 2015, he was ousted as CEO of a company he founded, the content-marketing firm Scripted.

“You’re trying to be everything to everyone all the time,” he recalled. “You’re on Facebook, you’re on Twitter, you’re conscious of who is thinking what at all times and you’re trying to control the conversation. You want to be perceived positively everywhere you go.”

After that, Rajaraman acquired the assets and CMS of local San Francisco site The Bold Italic, relaunching it on Medium in August 2015. He said he chose to publish “This Is Your Life in Silicon Valley” because he believed Medium attracted the sort of audience who would get it.

“With this type of piece, you can encourage a lot of troll-like reactions, and Medium minimizes that,” he said. “When I put it on LinkedIn, the crazies came out. Ninety percent of the LinkedIn audience didn’t understand it was satire.”

He even had to leave a comment on LinkedIn to drive the point home:

Jealous much, Jonathan Swift?

You can listen to Recode Decode in the audio player above, or subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.

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