Ajay here, been meaning to post this for a while. Phil Libin, the founder of Evernote and now a VC, posted this answer on Quora about a month before we launched.
Which companies are currently unethical in their approach to business and technology?
It’s virtually impossible to call out individual companies as unethical without relying on speculation, which I won’t do here. Companies that skirt the line, and may well cross it, are the ones that fail to align their interests with those of their customers. Some are obvious, like the companies that price critical services or products out of reach of the people who need them most or that take advantage of regulatory arcana. But there’s a whole class of less-obviously unethical behavior that has an even higher impact and that we should fix with technology.
I call this the Beneficent Re-write.
It’s easier to pick on industries than companies. There are entire industries that are fundamentally based on screwing their customers. And by “screwing," I mean “taking advantage of historical asymmetries of information to encourage customers to act against their own best interests for the financial benefit of the company.” It’s time for these industries to be re-written.
“Which industries?”, I brain-hear you asking.
Let’s start with banking. There’s only one reason that banks still have seperate checking accounts and savings accounts and charge you overdraft fees when your money is in the wrong place and then try to sell you insurance to prevent that. The reason is so they can screw you. And for some reason we think this is ok.
How about credit cards, mortgages, insurance, car dealerships, um, i dunno, mattress stores? Any industry that makes you think you can get “a deal” or “an edge” is probably not behaving very ethically.
The good news is that the tide is already changing and it’s about to turn into a tsunami. Find an industry that’s fundamentally shady and figure out how to make a new product that makes every decision based on what’s best for the customer. While you’re at it, take the freedom that comes from aligning your interests and use it to inject creativity into a tired space. Good examples: Tesla, Affirm, Open Door, Casper, Digit, Paribus, Oscar. I’m proud to say that the last three are General Catalyst investments.
People today, and young people especially, have less tolerance for bullshit. They don’t think it’s ok to keep getting screwed just because “that’s how it works” and they generally aren’t looking for an unfair advantage. Focus on transparency and quality of experience and you’re more likely to do well in a transaction.
Technology can solve information asymmetries which is the root of most of these problems. We can make the world better. We can make money. Let’s do it.