Ripple co-founder Chris Larsen says tech has ‘messed up’ San Fran

There are two sides to every story.  While tech has created an economic boom in San Fran, it has caused housing to be unaffordable to those earning less than $250,000 a year.  It has allowed the homeless to grow as the poor push others out of expensive places.

Some in the tech industry realize there is a negative side to the great results of the tech take over of San Fran.  This is something to think about.

“We hate the word ‘disruptor.’ That’s everything that’s wrong with Silicon Valley. There’s a fetish for disruption,” Larsen told almost 800 people from Bay Area nonprofits and the business community attending the San Francisco Business Times’ annual Corporate Philanthropy breakfast Thursday. 

He said the drive for disruption creates a culture at startups where there’s little concern for the negative impact they’re having on society, assuming the market will figure it all out.

“We have to admit that tech in some ways is despised. It’s never been more successful. It’s never been under more scrutiny. It doesn’t matter whether you think you’re doing good things or not,” Larsen said. “We have to face that technology has messed up this city in key ways and it’s messed up the world. I don’t want to be too negative about it. Tech is also doing fantastic things.”

Exclusive: Ripple co-founder Chris Larsen says tech has ‘messed up’ San Francisco 

By Mark Calvey , San Francisco Business Times, 7/18/19 

Serial entrepreneur Chris Larsen criticized Silicon Valley startups that are so focused on disruption that they overlook the negative effects that accompany them.

“We hate the word ‘disruptor.’ That’s everything that’s wrong with Silicon Valley. There’s a fetish for disruption,” Larsen told almost 800 people from Bay Area nonprofits and the business community attending the San Francisco Business Times’ annual Corporate Philanthropy breakfast Thursday. 

He said the drive for disruption creates a culture at startups where there’s little concern for the negative impact they’re having on society, assuming the market will figure it all out.

“We have to admit that tech in some ways is despised. It’s never been more successful. It’s never been under more scrutiny. It doesn’t matter whether you think you’re doing good things or not,” Larsen said. “We have to face that technology has messed up this city in key ways and it’s messed up the world. I don’t want to be too negative about it. Tech is also doing fantastic things.”

Larsen reflected on the role companies can play in addressing homelessness, financial inclusion and other social issues.

“You should always be involved, but right now more than ever. There’s a couple of threads going on right now: There’s the incredible gap between the wealthy and the poor, and that’s just getting worse,” Larsen said.

“San Francisco and the Bay Area is stressed enormously because of tech,” Larsen said. “But I don’t think (cities’) budgets have kept up with the negative impact, while tech companies are swimming in cash.

“They can afford to help out more,” he said, pointing to the income gap and cleanliness of city streets as issues that need more money and attention. “It’s just super weird for our employees. All these tech companies are spending all this money on our offices and free snacks and then you go out on the street.”

Larsen also encouraged more nonprofits to accept digital assets such as XRP and bitcoin. Larsen said he’s more willing to give to nonprofits that accept cryptocurrency, or what some call digital assets. He gave $25 million in cryptocurrency to San Francisco State University’s business school and made a separate donation to a donor-advised fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation in Mountain View. 

“If you’re in the cryptocurrency business, and you see a nonprofit accepting digital assets, you’re likely to give more just because of the way economics work and the tax advantage,” Larsen said, pointing to growth of the cryptocurrency industry with Facebook Libra coming into the picture and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) debuting its own coin. Fintech investor Greg Kidd, who has previously worked with Larsen at Ripple, recently praised Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) for working with Visa (NYSE: V), MasterCard (NYSE: MA) and other established players in payments in creating Libra.

The growth of cryptocurrency is also spurring acceptance in philanthropy circles.

“Things are snow-balling. It’s just a no-brainer that nonprofits should accept digital assets,” Larsen said. “There’s a really good infrastructure that serves nonprofits. It’s not a weird thing anymore, and it won’t be strange for a nonprofit to call one of these Wall Street firms to get set up” to accept donations of cryptocurrency.

Larsen also discussed why his latest venture Ripple, where he’s executive chairman, embraced corporate giving soon after it was founded in 2012. 

Ripple debuted this year on the San Francisco Business Times List of the Top 100 Bay Area Corporate Philanthropists, giving $5.8 million in cash donations to Bay Area charities in 2018.

“We felt very early on that giving was going to be really important, selfishly, for the team. It’s table stakes now for recruiting great team members,” Larsen said of talent wanting to work at companies that are actively addressing social issues.

Ripple is using XRP cryptocurrency and its software and blockchain technology in working with more than 200 large financial institutions, fintechs and others to move money across borders faster and cheaper than traditional means of doing so. 

“Cryptocurrency is not replacing existing currencies. It’s not going to do that,” Larsen said. “Cryptocurrency supplements the world’s financial system, so it allows all kinds of new things to happen.

“It costs prohibitive amounts to send money cross border,” Larsen said in discussing how cryptocurrency can help the world’s 2 billion people falling outside the traditional banking system. “That’s what’s holding back globalization from working for 2 billion people.” 

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.