For many I’ve spoken to, it’s hard to pinpoint when this new wave of assholes and our acceptance of them began. Part of it may be the changing face of what the “tech industry” is and hence what a “product guy” is. Kevin Rose of Digg—not known as an asshole—was one of the first high-profile examples of a “product founder” who advised on look and feel and design and usability and experience but couldn’t actually write a line of usable code. He hired an outsourced freelancer to do so in the early days of Digg.
Since then, with the advent of mobile apps designing something and shoving it out the door has gotten only more turn-key. Whether it’s the open source stack all this stuff runs on, platforms like Facebook or the app store for distributing it, the rise of services like oDesk and eLance, or hosting it all on Amazon Web Services, the “tech” part of a tech company has become commoditized—at least compared to the days when Silicon Valley actually made Silicon.
And because these founders need less money, they have fewer reasons to answer to anyone. Said differently: The assholes of the past may have lacked the freedom to let their asshole flags fly.