Pattern Recognition, by Ian Sigalow

Occupy America



Ian Sigalow

Ian is a co-founder and partner at Greycroft Partners in New York City. He has been a venture capitalist since 2001.


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Occupy America

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I had a dream last night that I was trying to escape Europe in the 1930s. It was an improbable situation because the events in my dream happened almost 50 years before I was born, but doors kept closing around me and I woke up before I knew the outcome.

I think the dream was induced by watching a video that compared the economic struggle in America today to that of Germany in the 1920s. American unemployment has increased. The number of working poor has risen. Our national debt has increased and we have responded by printing money, which is the precursor to inflation. Most disturbing is that class warfare has entered the popular debate for the first time in my life. And you don’t need a PhD in History to know that whenever someone singles out the 1% or the 2%, racial and religious discrimination are right beneath the surface.

I work all day with entrepreneurs, and as a result I know many people who have done well for themselves. In my experience they have two characteristics. First, they started companies. Some of these companies are in the financial services industry, but many others are in real estate, professional services, and increasingly the Internet. The second characteristic is that they give a lot to social causes. They have their own charities. Some of the causes are clean water for Africa, eradicating AIDS, and curing cancer. This is the social pact of the 1%.

Some of these people also consider taxes a form of giving. They understand, of course, that income is redistributed, but they believe the government does the best it can. They would rather give more than be singled out.

When I watch the Occupy Wall Street movement I am concerned for the future. The movement has polarized us and turned Americans against each other. It also has a dangerous undercurrent that denigrates the entrepreneur, the risk taker, the people who are willing to work harder than the rest of us. Yes, there are some people who became wealthy without building anything, but they are the minority of the minority.

I am also concerned for my generation. We graduated college on the downside of the tech boom, and for the last decade the US economy has created too few jobs and incomes have risen too slowly. Inflation has also hit in the two areas where we could least afford it – education and housing. The increase in college tuition over the last 30 years is now hovering at 800%. Similarly, housing costs where I live in Manhattan have increased an unspeakable 1,000% over the last three decades. I recently met a woman who purchased an apartment in 1979 for $250,000. She sold it last year for over $7,000,000.

It is hard for someone in my generation not to be discouraged. But rather than occupy public parks and carry signs, I think we should occupy America with our ingenuity and ideas. Invent. Build. Volunteer. A lot can be accomplished in 90 days if people put their minds to it.


Ian Sigalow

Ian is a co-founder and partner at Greycroft Partners in New York City. He has been a venture capitalist since 2001.

  • user

    AUTHOR AustinClements

    Posted on 9:14 pm December 4, 2011.

    …Add Healthcare to the areas that inflation has hit over the last few decades. It’s not the best of times in that regard too.

    The Occupy movement has reached a point that it has the attention of everyone, but only for a short period of time. The message needs to be focused in order to be loud and clear before people lose interest and it becomes background noise. Part of the movement should be dedicated to creating a more effective allocation of resources in order for us to invent and build. No point in raising taxes on the 1% if the funds raised don’t create real opportunities for the 99%.

    There have been some pretty positive signs recently. Efforts to support small businesses and startups are really just beginning to get underway. I think it’s pretty exciting to see what will come after this ‘lost decade’.

  • user

    AUTHOR Ccrystle

    Posted on 3:43 pm December 7, 2011.

    It’s not about the 1 or 2% who are successful and wealthy. It’s about the corruptive power of corporate money in politics, income disparity and loss of decent jobs for regular people, it’s about basic inequities. At no time has this been about race or religion (as opposed to the Tea Party).

    The signs worked. We’re talking about the issues, and that should be applauded.

  • user

    AUTHOR Rush Card Pro

    Posted on 7:21 am December 9, 2011.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.. I really love to hear from you.. Keep posting some more post like this..

  • user

    AUTHOR JeffLevin

    Posted on 9:54 pm January 13, 2012.

    Well said. Happy New Year Ian.

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