Guy Kawasaki was a Surprise

Guy Kawasaki — wikipedia and blog — is a well-known name around San Francisco and the internet at large. He’s had a good run as a Venture Capitalist which is mostly due to trading heavily on his days as being one of the original employees of Apple. I’ve heard a lot about Guy, but I had never actually heard him in person. In fact, I had never really read his blog and only knew him through news and accolades being showered upon him. Well, as it turns out, he’s an ignorant ass that I’m convinced does more harm than good to an event. Obviously one could argue that this is sour grapes and I’m just jealous of his success, but let me go in to a little more detail about my one and hopefully only viewing of him.
It was all because of BarCampAfrica that I had this chance encounter. Guy was invited to moderate a panel on Emerging Technology. The panel seemed great. On it were such innovative and intelligent people as: David Kobia of Ushahidi, Jon Gosier of AppFrica, and Martin Fisher of Kickstart. William Deed of the Mara Conservancy was also tossed in to the group as well due to his previous work on Wildlife Direct. And this is where some of the problems started as the group was huge and it was a bit unclear as to who was supposed to be on the panel. This obviously threw Guy off a bit although he seemed to roll with it a little initially. But one thing became immediately clear in that he knew next to nothing about the panelists, which as a moderator is rather key. He seemed to trying to play the dumb guy, but in reality he just came across as being dumb and uncaring around the panel.
This got worse as the panel attempted to move in to actual discussions. Guy was terrible in asking them focused questions, which naturally led to people giving longer answers than they probably should have, only to have Guy cut them off and give a sense that in his head he was thinking, “Shit, this human powered water pump thing is boring. Next!” What became readily apparent was that this panel was less about having a discussion on Emerging Technologies in Africa and more about Guy Kawasaki learning about things that he had never heard of prior to that day, including the BarCamp format which he had never attended previously. The worst point was when he started grilling David Kobia to say that Ushahidi is the “CNN of Africa” which David (who is a mellow and great guy) finally gave in to just to keep the conversation rolling because Guy wouldn’t let it drop. And for the record, Ushahidi is not the CNN of Africa as there is a CNN of Africa already, although it’s pretty sucky. As their open source system is evolving, Ushahidi doesn’t exist in comparable terms to Western technology. But this is the beauty of their system in that it is a technology that is being developed in Africa, for Africa, but could be used anywhere an alert and tracking system is needed. They are going to have some scalability issues down the road, but I’m sure they’ll be overcome as there are a lot of bright guys involved in this. This was all above Guy’s head though.
Another jewel of a moment was when Guy started asking everyone, “If I have $1,000 and I want to give it to Africa, what do I do with it? I mean, I’m not going to go to Africa personally. I just don’t do that kind of thing. That’s not me.” (this is a rough transcription of what he said, but the intent is there) While I found the question to be one of the only valid things to come out of Guy’s mouth, I found his arrogant mumbling at the end of it to be offensive and there were more than a few groans around me when he said it. But, the panelists persevered and mentioned a variety of answers, as this this is not a simple question to answer currently due to the old African aid model proving to be untenable. Jon Gosier made mention of buying two plane tickets to an African region and visiting the continent to which Guy categorically dismissed that as, “…just giving money to the airlines, which is a waste.” What is actually a waste is having to sit through Guy talking about anything because Jon had a very good point that Guy unable to see. Buying tickets to African towns promotes air routes which allow trade, connections, and breaking up the Western attitude of isolation when it comes to Africa. For so many countries, there are very few air routes and they tend to be very expensive. If more people fly, the costs go down, more people are hired at the airports, and tourism (whether it be short or long term) grows in a region. Yes, you are giving money to the airlines, but you are also helping to fund a connection to Africa which they need just as much as fat internet pipes.
To sum up, if some group touts the fact that they have Guy Kawasaki talking at some conference they’re promoting, avoid bothering to listen to him. He is so out of touch with what is happening on the ground with the net and so oozing with hubris that he can’t learn about anything new. You’re better off having a chat with your grandparents about FaceBook.
Guy Kawasaki was a Surprise