New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg continued his press tour touting New York City as the place for tech startups in a sit-down with TechCrunch, and he didn't miss the opportunity to brag about how he once dealt with unemployment. He grabbed his bootstraps, started his own company and became a billionaire. But in his nonchalance, you can hear a sort of snide "I certainly didn't complain about it" tone in his voice. That one's for you, Occupy Wall Street.
Bloomberg didn't address the Occupy movement directly in the interview, but it's hard not to read in between the lines. Bloomberg told TechCrunch host and venture capitalist Chris Dixon about the beginnings of Bloomberg LP:
It came about because I got fired. I was working on Wall Street … but after 15 years there I sort of had different views about what the company should be doing and it was time to go and left on great terms. We had sold the company at the same time, so they didn't have the concept of severance. Everybody said, "You got big severance." I didn't, but I did own a piece of the firm and so over a number of years I sold that. And I used that money to go start a company.
Pause. How one gets fired and leaves "on great terms" while holding on to to enough equity to start a media company is beyond us. But it's also beside the point. Bloomberg continues:
Why? I think in my case it wasn't I had this grand vision. Nobody offered me a job — I was probably too proud to go look for one — and I said well why not start your own company. And it turned out great! You should get fired the same way.
Bloomberg goes on to talk for about ten minutes about fetching coffee, and it's not terribly insightful beyond one small detail about the billionaire once operating a soldering iron in a barn in Connecticut. But again, that's beside the point.
If we were writing a superhero movie about the Occupy movement, Mayor Bloomberg would be a likely candidate to play the supervillain. (Think Lex Luther meets Skeletor.) It was almost two weeks ago that police stormed into Zuccotti Park, slashing tents and punching journalists in an apparent effort to evict the protesters from the space once and for all. The three-time mayor and possible future presidential candidate defended the raid, and although there have been calls for him to apologize for "censorship" during the event, he's not offered much sympathy to the protesters since then. "They don’t know how to fix this," Bloomberg said at a press conference after the raid. “They want their government to fix it. They don’t even know what the problem is, much less how to fix it, but they know that things aren't working well and you see that around the world."
We realized in watching Bloomberg's appearance on TechCrunch though that the stigma surrounding his handling of the Occupy Wall Street protests is going to follow him around for a long time. It's unclear how long the movement will persevere, but a number of stories this week suggest that it will almost certainly endure the foreseeable end of the outdoor occupations. New York even compares it to the student protest movements of 1968 and suggests that it could become a major issue in the 2012 elections. Either way, it's good to see the mayor speaking out about the value of entrepreneurship. In the future, he might want to be careful about giving advice on how to get fired, though.