We don’t need less tech, we need more empathetic tech

Trampled by Unicorns: Big Tech's Empathy Problem and How to Fix It



A tech executive’s revealing and in-depth examination of Big Tech’s failure to keep its foundational promises and the steps the industry can take to course-correct in order to make a positive impact on the world.

Trampled by Unicorns: Big Tech’s Empathy Problem and How to Fix It explores how technology has progressed humanity’s most noble pursuits, while also grappling with the origins of the industry’s destructive empathy deficit and the practical measures Big Tech can take to self-regulate and make it right again. Author Maëlle Gavet examines the tendency for many of Big Tech’s stars to stray from their user-first ideals and make products that actually profoundly damage their customers and ultimately society.

Offering an account of the world of tech startups in the United States and Europe—from Amazon, Google, and Facebook to Twitter, Airbnb, and Uber (to name a few)—Trampled by Unicorns argues that the causes and consequences of Big Tech’s failures originate from four main sources: the Valley’s cultural insularity, the hyper-growth business model, the sector’s stunning lack of diversity, and a dangerous self-sustaining ecosystem. However, the book is not just an account of how an industry came off the rails, but also a passionate call to action on how to get it back on track.

Gavet, a leading technology executive and former CEO of Ozon, an executive vice president at Priceline Group, and chief operating officer of Compass, formulates a clear call to action for industry leaders, board members, employees, and consumers/users to drive the change necessary to create better, more sustainable businesses—and the steps Western governments are likely to take should tech leaders fail to
do so. Steps that include reformed tax codes, reclassification of platforms as information companies, new labor laws, and algorithmic transparency and oversight.

Trampled by Unicorns’ exploration of the promise and dangers of technology is perfect for anyone with an interest in entrepreneurship, tech, and global commerce, and a hope of technology’s all-empowering prospect. An illuminating book full of insights, Trampled by Unicorns describes a realistic path forward, even as it uncovers and explains the errors of the past. As Gavet puts it, “we don’t need less tech, we need more empathetic tech.” And how that crucial distinction can be achieved by the tech companies them- selves, driving change as governments actively pave the road ahead.


“Gavet has delivered a very important piece of work, which highlights the issues around technology, information, democracy and the human condition. Everyone will benefit from reading her analysis, and will come away questioning not only the ethos of tomorrow’s companies, but also the foundations upon which we train leaders for the future — from financial incentives to education to culture. This is a must-read book for anyone who cares about business, government and progress.”

Robert Siegel

Lecturer in Management, Stanford Graduate School of Business

“Maëlle Gavet gives an insider’s view of how tech companies and their investors become addicted to financial growth in the same way that they addict their users to attention, ‘influence,’ or other unsustainable pleasures.  In the end, everyone wants more and no one is satisfied. The narrative arc of life becomes an endless loop in search of unsustainable growth. It reflects our short-term culture.  But enough complaining!  In the second half, she [Gavet] proposes a number of remedies – not quick fixes, but fundamental shifts into more equitable, long-term thinking that will actually make everyone much happier without the addictive highs of 100x returns and CEO worship.”

Esther Dyson

Founding chair, ICANN; Wellville Executive founder

“Despite being a tech insider, Maëlle Gavet successfully applies outside-in thinking to the tech backlash. She answers how these companies that endeavored to “change the world” got so off course and how employees, boards and other stakeholders need to demand a new brand of leadership. What if every company had a Chief Empathy Officer, or better yet, what if every employee was empowered to bring their humanity to the products and services that have so radically changed our lives. The future of tech depends on it.”

Christa Quarles

Former CEO, OpenTable; Board Member, Kimberly-Clark and Affirm

“Maëlle Gavet takes the reader on a tour of the tech industry that only a tech insider with decades of experience could provide. She understands the business, the culture and the personalities. More importantly, she helps the reader understand the industry and how and why it has moved from golden child to problem child in just a few short years. Gavet doesn’t just discuss the current and emerging problems confronting the tech industry and those of us who use their products, she recommends thoughtful and implementable solutions. This is a book for anyone who cares about the future of technology and the technology industry.”

Larry Irving

Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce; Member, Internet Hall of Fame

“Peter Drucker was adamant that leaders of organizations and institutions have a fundamental responsibility to create a functioning society. Maelle Gavet shows impressively how the tech giants shape our future by optimizing society their way, thereby distancing us from the human core of our existence. It is all happening around us while we sit there like the frog in the fable, not realizing that the water in the saucepan is getting hotter by the day. Maëlle Gavet has written a book that should be an alert to us all – not by pointing a finger but through sound diagnosis leading to a credible course of action. A great contribution to inform a public debate that needs to happen now.”

Richard Straub

Founder and President, Global Peter Drucker Forum

“Trampled by Unicorns is essential reading for anyone who leads or aspires to lead people and companies. The questions and stories held within are uncomfortable and go against many of the well-worn tracks pursuing growth at all costs. But as Gavet argues, we are all worse off today thanks to the fake news and false information that is so quickly propagated through the biggest tech powerhouses, and must change ourselves as an industry before it’s too late.”

Shan-Lyn Ma

CEO, Zola