• Ethiqs

The tech startup scene needs a new mantra: here’s why

If you’ve had any involvement with the startup community chances are you’ve heard someone say, “Move fast and break things”.

Initially, Facebook’s mantra when it was just starting out, the motto has been adopted by tech startups around the world in order to get to market quicker. Essentially, build something imperfect quickly and get it out there to see if it works – and then tweak.

If you unpack the motto it’s actually guided by agile principles which can work wonders. Agile project management can create a work environment that thrives on testing, learning and pushing boundaries. It fosters autonomous teams and ditches unnecessary meetings (because no one can “move fast” if you can’t get a meeting with the CEO to sign off changes!).

But here’s the catch. Moving fast often means one thing: risk.

Companies race to get their technology to market without taking into consideration what real-world checks and balances are needed to legally protect not just their businesses, but society as a whole.

Facebook is a perfect example. By focussing on developing a platform that was easy to use, and could give anyone global reach they hadn’t assessed the risk associated with creating a non-moderated global soapbox. READ: MASSIVE RISK.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal is just one example of their failure to identify and manage the potential risk of unmoderated political advertising (or propaganda depending on who you ask) on its platform.

A t-shirt with a new slogan

As someone in the legal profession whose job it is to highlight the potential risk to my clients, I think the mantra of the tech startup world needs to change. Tech businesses need to slow down enough to take into consideration the very complex issues we’re facing as a society and therefore create a sector that values quality, accountability and transparency.

For me, a big part of that is creating legal frameworks and agreements that can be understood by customers, employees and everyone in between – and I mean really understood.

I find it baffling that if I were to take an extract from almost any social media platform’s terms and conditions (which the vast majority of Earth’s population have agreed to) and read it out to you right now you’d probably have very little understanding of how your personal information is being used to get you to buy things, share content and even vote.

Of course, I want technological innovation to continue, but ethics must be at the forefront of change, and unfortunately for the “Move fast and break things” posse on your LinkedIn that swears by all the mottos to come out of Silicon Valley that means hitting the breaks.

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