Seattle venture capitalist Nick Hanauer loves to stir the pot, poking holes in economic theories and taking his wealthy tech cronies to task over hot-button issues such as education, gun control and taxes.
And Hanauer’s iconoclastic image — rooted in a liberal philosophy — is on full display in a lengthy profile in The Seattle Times today by political reporter Jim Brunner. The piece largely centers on Hanauer’s role in pushing for a $15 per hour minimum wage in the U.S.
But one of the more fascinating aspects of the story includes quotes from Hanauer about Amazon.com, a company that he helped get off the ground in the mid-1990s as one of the earliest angel investors. His $45,000 investment mushroomed to more than $100 million when he sold it several years later.
You’d think Hanauer might be relishing in the success of Amazon.com, which as we reported last month topped 117,000 employees worldwide.
But, of course, Hanauer, who grew up in Bellevue and studied philosophy at the University of Washington, has a different way of looking at things. The multi-millionaire investor does say that he’s proud of the Jeff Bezos-led company, but he also notes that it’s not “an unalloyed good.”
“Amazon didn’t create any jobs. Amazon probably destroyed a million jobs in our economy,” Hanauer tells The Times, referring to the destruction of bricks-and-mortar companies in the company’s wake.
For those who know Hanauer, it’s not too unusual to hear a statement of that kind rolling off his tongue.
Bold. Direct. And contrarian.
On the GeekWire radio show last year, appearing with friend Rich Barton, the co-founder of Zillow, Hanauer said he was disappointed that Amazon.com was not more engaged in the community.
“There’s a broadly-held view that communities somehow take care of themselves, and if we just go to work everyday and run our businesses, everything will be fine. But I don’t share that view. I think great communities are built deliberately with people, and particularly people in leadership positions engaging in the important issues and processes that make the community go. I realize that they are very busy building one of the biggest companies in the world, but I certainly wish that they did more civically in the area and believe, if they did, we’d all benefit from it.”
Hanauer certainly strikes a different pose than many in the tech industry, and his views can be polarizing to some.
But as venture capitalist Robert Nelsen remarks in the Times’ piece, it is good to have “change agents” like Hanauer speaking their minds. Read the full story from the Times here.