On Money, Not Having It, and Writing About People Who Have a Lot of It
There’s a fine art to reporting on sketchy companies with billions while making $13 an hour
Ihave never had a lot of money. And I’ve also never been particularly good with money. It did not occur to me to get better with having money, perhaps because it did not make sense to me to learn how to be better about handling money I didn’t have.
Why would I learn about investing in the stock market, for example, when every dollar I made was going toward rent or paying off my student loans? Does the stock market let you invest your leftover $40 after taxes and expenses? (Do not answer this question. I still have not put any money into the stock market, in part out of a misguided belief that eventually I will go back to “reporting,” and it will be ethically murky for me to own stock in a company I could potentially cover. Also, again, I do not have any money with which to invest.)
In 2014, when I started covering venture capital funding, multimillion- and eventually multibillion-dollar companies, I was making $13 an hour. A few months later, when I finally got a job offer, it was for $40,000 a year plus the potential of a $5,000 annual “traffic bonus.” Again, it was 2014.
I spent half of the first year and most of the second year talking to people smarter than I am who would let me ask them questions about tech. I wrote about companies like Uber, which seemed to be able to command an insane amount of funding and, subsequently, press for raising that money. Uber raises $1.2 billion! Uber is raising another $2 billion! Uber raises $1.15 billion! Yes, there were other Uber headlines during this time. Bad ones. There was Operation SLOG, essentially Uber’s playbook for sabotaging Lyft. There were the drivers protesting Uber’s claims that they could make $90,000 a year driving for Uber. The drivers I spoke to were barely making minimum wage.
I had no qualifications to write about business, tech, or finance news. I was merely a 22-year-old idiot—a fact reinforced to me in rude off-the-record phone conversations with Uber’s PR flacks — but it seemed glaringly obvious to me, an idiot, that what was happening here wasn’t sustainable. Company raises a kajillion…