The weird social life of a tech CEO in Michigan

Published on Thursday, March 28, 2013 By Brad Wardell In Business

The number of tech companies in Michigan is…well not very high.  And I’ve noticed a trend over the past 20 years: As time goes on, an ever increasing percentage of my friends that I talk to socially boil down to one of 3 categories:

  1. Lawyers.  When I started the company, I didn’t know any lawyers. The first lawyer I hired I found through the yellow pages. At our 10 year anniversary, I think about a quarter of my active friends were lawyers. Today, it’s probably about half.  A tech CEO ends up spending a lot of time with lawyers due to the nature of intellectual property. Being in Michigan means lawyers are the ones you actually see the most.
  2. Journalists.  Let me be the first to tell you that being friends with journalists doesn’t equate to preferential treatment. I spend far more time worried that they’ll knock us down a point in order to eliminate the appearance of bias.  Journalists make good friends because they often share the same interests and, like CEOs, typically have to deal with a ton of different topics.
  3. Other tech leaders. This is a more generalized area but one that is probably surprising to most consumers. The reason you rarely see CEOs (especially ones in the game industry) criticize other companies is because they’re likely friends outside of work.

That isn’t to say that represents 100% of my friends.  Most of my other friends are people I work with on a day to day basis.  In terms of broad generalizations, that’s what I’m seeing.