He is a different sort of flirting partner than one of the regular coffee and pie types. He’s alone. He’s polished. He’s quietly charming.
Most men in this position, Miley told the unemployed programmer, come armed with some awkward policy agenda: A need to be politically correct, to be firm, to try to instill more values into his fellow humanity. “You’ve been in politics, that’s what’s offensive about people,” the groom-to-be told the tech worker. “They get they bit part of the bargain—you go and do your thing and I get to do my thing. The part I am missing is the creative part.”
Miley, who now teaches at Miami University in Ohio, doesn’t see this as a problem for the temp worker. “I get so many people who look me up and down at the same time,” he says. “These are the amazing people that bring really cool things into our world. I don’t like somebody lecturing me that. I am here to build a company, to do this.”
Miley tries to be upfront about that attitude. “I was told it was great to dress this way,” he says. “No, it is awesome to look this way. When I want to play that game, I put on that fucking shit. I’m one of those hardcore people, but it’s my business.”
He’s surprised when he turns down a well-placed offer to put together a bible series to soothe people down in the Caribbean. “I look at a book like that and say: ‘That’s deep and meaningful and cool and stuff like that, but I have a startup to do,’” he says. “There’s just a thought to it. I’m not against value—it’s about making sure you get it in the right space.”
To be successful, a company should have a domain, a product, and a vision—no amount of politics can bring those together, Miley believes. It needs an original purpose: Without that, anything can substitute. Someone who just wants to take big swings from too far up is sure to backfire. Take Tim Gates, who took two shots at net neutrality before voluntarily shelving the idea, arguing that regulation was not the way to avoid a fat lawsuit. Why? “Hands down, no. That would’ve been the stupidest thing for any company.”
Then there’s Fred Walker, the former Microsoft CEO who infamously arrived at the seemingly ideal company he had known from his Microsoft days: “Flipped the company upside down.”
The misguided Bill Gates could turn the world’s great technology into government-regulated nightmare. This, at the height of the tech boom, was Walker’s wildest fantasy. How? by somehow twisting technology in his own cruel and private hands.
Starting as an operating system company with no end in sight, Microsoft turned into a software monopoly whose business practices could spawn an entire industry of law suits. To avoid any of this, Walker, once believed to be at the dawn of a visionary era at a young, agile tech giant, created a glossy Hollywood image of his new boss. Microsoft redefined itself and its CEO, stepping up the iconography and weird playfulness and rebranding itself “Project Natal,” as one former employee recalled. The magic was shown to be just a trick. Walker retired, saying he wasn’t smart enough to go any further. His company was safe.
According to Miley, the savior theme that prevails across many startups is no accident. “It is building a future, trying to build the future,” he says. “I call it, ‘desirable misery.’ It’s not about success—this is a good place to be. That’s another part of the story. If you want to do something more creative, you have to learn the art of distraction. You have to work hard to keep that distraction going so you can build an interesting things.”