Y Combinator’s Short-sighted and Irresponsible Declaration of War Against Hollywood

Y Combinator, one of the most influential investment funds in Silicon Valley, declared war on Hollywood on Friday.

I wish they had really thought through the unintended consequences of their call to arms, because lots of innocent people are about to get hurt.

Y Combinator is essentially asking for entrepreneurs to take on the Hollywood establishment. In return, Y Combinator will fund them. Hollywood tried to mortally wound the web through SOPA and PIPA, but we repelled them, but YC believes (rightly so) that Hollywood will try again to harm the web, so it has decided to take the fight to Hollywood.

I have a lot of problems with this line of thought (you tried to hurt me, so I’m going to hurt you), but let me summarize the ways that I believe this will backfire:

  • The heart of Hollywood is in its aspiring stars, not its execs. I have had the privilege to meet hundreds of amazing aspiring actors, actresses and musicians through the production companies I advise. Their dream — their only dream — is to be on that stage and entertain millions. Proposing to destroy Hollywood will also destroy the livelihoods and the dreams of these entertainers and the crews, writers and creatives that support them. That is irresponsible.
  • War is rarely the solution. Yes, Hollywood attacked us, but there better solutions that retaliation. Some execs in Hollywood are indeed trying to kill the web, but I have also met a new generation of rising execs that understand that embracing digital is the future. Attacking them will hurt the progress that has been made with products like Hulu and Vevo.
  • Entertainment and art are relative. “It would be great if what people did instead of watching shows was exercise more and spend more time with their friends and families,” YC says in its declaration. This isn’t a bad philosophy, but it also ignores artistic masterpieces like Schindler’s List and Planet Earth that have entertained, informed and inspired millions of people.

I get that YC is angry at Hollywood. We all are. But declaring war isn’t the solution — it will only make things worse. Sorry to be so harsh on you YC, but the consequences are potentially severe if we keep fighting.

Instead, I call on leaders from Silicon Valley and Hollywood to come together to try to find common ground before it is too late. We can find a way to respect copyrights and make performance art flourish online while protecting the integrity and openness of the web.

Let’s take a step back, get our emotions into check and find some common ground. If you want to work with me to find common ground, I’m only an email away.

~ Ben

Image courtesy of Flickr, TLVshac. Photo taken on the set of The Devil Wears Prada