My friend Ben Siscovick wrote an interesting blog post today entitled Stop Shitting on Wall Street.

There is way too much vehement anti-Wall Street sentiment in the startup community. Not that it is completely without merit – there are tons of valid reasons to dislike many of the cultural and practical elements that give Wall Street such a bad name – a focus on wealth accumulation, an over emphasis on the short-term, positioning as value extractors rather than value creators, etc.

What bothers me most is that the disparaging commentary on Wall Street is rarely rooted in fair and objective dialogue, but rather, more often than not, merely degrades to straw-man argumentation, broad generalized attacks with no respect for nuance, and an utter lack of appreciation for the benefits, not just the costs, of Wall Street experience.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, but while Ben is in fact a HUGE Phish fan, he is not––so far as I can tell––currently on drugs. So let’s take his argument at face value.

Why so much shit-talking about big corporations and wall street in the startup world, you ask? Well, I think it should be pretty obvious: Wall Street and Big Co. are the competition. We compete with them for talent and mindshare every day. And precisely because they are so appealing and have so much to offer, especially monetarily, we try to detract from their power and allure by spreading fear and talking shit. We try to make people afraid that joining Google or Goldman will lead to a forfeiture of their soul. Is it 100% rational or true? No, as he adroitly pointed out. But it is strategic and accretive to the startup ecosystem for us to talk such shit. It is marketing in its most pure and basic form.

Now, you can protest and say “But it doesn’t have to be that way!” To which I’d answer: Sure, if either: a) the startup community doesn’t really care about winning over the hearts and minds of America’s youth, or b) there’s not really much competition between us and them. But as it is, especially on the East Coast, the startup community is competing desperately for mindshare amongst a scarce talent pool of elite college grads, and the competition––Wall Street––is deeply entrenched. So we shit talk. It ain’t pretty, but it’s the one weapon we have. And it works.