Silicon Valley Misfits: Human Flourishing In California
Religion & Liberty Online

Silicon Valley Misfits: Human Flourishing In California

Silicon Valley certainly has a reputation for innovation and risk. But Christianity? Businesses designed not only to innovate but to pursuing business as an “intimate” adventure with God? That seems unlikely.

Christianity Today tells the story of several entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley who are grounded in faith, but are shrewd business people. Take, for example, Sonny Vu.

The banker is dressed in northern California business attire—tailored suit, no tie, a nice watch peeking out from beneath his sleeve. Vu is dressed in a black knit T-shirt, jeans, and indoor flip-flops. He opens a MacBook Pro and talks through a presentation about the company he founded, Misfit Wearables.

There’s no watch on Vu’s wrist. Instead he wears a thin wristband that holds a tapered, dark-gray aluminum disk about the size of a quarter. This is Misfit’s first product, Shine. It’s a device that attracted 127 online articles about Misfit in the tech press, everywhere from Wired to Mashable to TechCrunch—”without anyone knowing what it did,” Vu says, grinning. He pops it out of its holder and sets it on the screen of his iPhone. “This has been tracking my activity for the past week. I just set it here, and it uploads all my data. No cable, no Bluetooth,” he explains as tiny lights blink around the circumference of the disk.

Shine is an activity tracker, a device to record how often and how far you walk, bike, or swim. It’s hardly the first to market—products from Nike, Jawbone, and Fitbit have already arrived—but Vu is betting that there is a place for great design in the geeky space of “wearable technology.”

Vu believes there is a “creational, redemptive view of business”. Another Silicon Valley business known as FIG, which develops health and wellness apps, co-founded by Kevon Saber and Bart Munro, is focused on human flourishing.

Even in spiritually experimental northern California, it must be an odd site for their employees to see their bosses in a glass-walled conference room talking to God and asking for guidance. But this is all part of Fig’s pursuit of truth. “We need to pursue the adventure of growing intimate with God,” Munro says. “Growing in this is worth trial and error.”

What do nonbelieving employees think of bosses who spend part of the workday seeking intimacy with God? “Team members can get paid like professional athletes at Google or Facebook,” Saber says. “We disclose to them that we try to make decisions based on God’s leading. They join Fig because of our mission and culture.”

Still, Saber and Munro say they don’t run a “Christian” company, and question if such a thing even exists. All of the entrepreneurs interviewed in the article also acknowledged the high failure rate for start-ups, but noted that creativity and boldness was part of the “package” of business. They are all trying to figure out ways to harness human creativity in a way that will better lives, and all acknowledge that their faith feeds this.

“Is there a creational, redemptive view of business?” Vu asked… “How about if we make the purpose of business to make communities to flourish, and to create opportunities for people to express their God-given capacities in meaningful and purposeful ways?

The twentieth-century German theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it this way:

The Christian’s field of activity is the world. It is here that Christians are to become engaged, are to work and be active, here that they are to do the will of God; and for that reason, Christians are not resigned pessimists, but are those who while admittedly not expecting much from the world are for that very reason already joyous and cheerful in the world, for that world is the seedbed of eternity.

Here is to the Misfits: may they continue to flourish.

Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.