Smart thinking essay

Why Smart people defend Bad Ideas Scott Berkun

Except the lions turned out not to have any teeth, and the business of putting galleries online barely qualified as carrion. A familiar Problem Sum up all these sources of error, and it's no wonder we had such a bad idea for a company. We did the first thing we thought of; we were ambivalent about being in business at all; and we deliberately chose an impoverished market to avoid competition. Looking at the applications for the summer founders Program, i see signs of all three. But the first is by far the biggest problem. Most of the groups applying have not stopped to ask: of all the things we could do, is this the one with the best chance of making money?

As it turns out, vc-backed startups are not failure that fearsome. They're too busy trying to spend all that money to get software written. In 1995, the e-commerce business was very competitive as measured in press releases, anterolisthesis but not as measured in software. And really it never was. The big fish like open Market (rest their souls) were just consulting companies pretending to be product companies 5, and the offerings at our end of the market were a couple hundred lines of Perl scripts. Or could have been implemented as a couple hundred lines of Perl; in fact they were probably tens of thousands of lines of c or java. Once we actually took the plunge into e-commerce, it turned out to be surprisingly easy to compete. So why were we afraid? We felt we were good at programming, but we lacked confidence in our ability to do a mysterious, undifferentiated thing we called "business." In fact there is no such thing as "business." There's selling, promotion, figuring out what people want, deciding how much to charge. And the combination is not as hard as it seems, because some tasks (like raising money and getting incorporated) are an O(1) pain in the ass, whether you're big or small, and others (like selling and promotion) depend more on energy and imagination than any. Artix was like a hyena, content to survive on carrion because we were afraid of the lions.

smart thinking essay

Great Hackers - paul Graham

What I mean is, if you're starting a company that will do something cool, the aim had better be to make money and maybe be cool, not to be cool and maybe make money. It's hard enough to make money that you can't do it by accident. Unless it's your first priority, it's unlikely to happen at all. Hyenas When I probe our motives with Artix, i see a third mistake: timidity. If you'd proposed at the time that we go into the e-commerce business, we'd have found the idea terrifying. Surely a field like that would be dominated by fearsome startups with five million dollars of vc money each. Whereas we felt pretty sure that we could hold our own in the slightly less competitive business of generating Web sites for art galleries. We erred ridiculously far on the side of safety.

smart thinking essay

Why Smart people have bad Ideas - paul Graham

Work people like doesn't pay well, for reasons of supply and demand. The most extreme case promotion is developing programming languages, which doesn't pay at all, because people like it so much they do it for free. When we started Artix, i was still ambivalent about business. I wanted to keep one foot in the art world. Going into business is like a hang-glider launch: you'd better do it wholeheartedly, or not at all. The purpose of a company, and a startup especially, is to make money. You can't have divided loyalties. Which is not to say that you have to do the most disgusting sort of work, like spamming, or starting a company whose only purpose is patent litigation.

Plunge in, by all means, but remember later to look at your idea in the harsh light of morning and ask: is this something people will pay for? Is this, of all the things we could make, the thing people will pay most for? Muck The second mistake we made with Artix is also very common. Putting galleries on the web seemed cool. One of the most valuable things my father taught me is an old Yorkshire saying: where there's muck, there's brass. Meaning that unpleasant work pays. And more to the point here, vice versa.

Patton Oswalt a closed letter to myself about thievery

smart thinking essay

How to ask questions The Smart way - catb

Plunging into an idea is a good thing. The solution is at the other end: to realize that having invested time in something doesn't make it good. This is clearest in the case of names. Viaweb was originally called Webgen, but we discovered someone else had a product called that. We were so attached to our name that we offered him 5 of the company if he'd let us have. But he wouldn't, so we had to think of another.

4 The best we could do was viaweb, which we disliked at first. It was like having a new mother. But within three days we loved it, and Webgen sounded lame and old-fashioned. If it's hard to change something so simple as a name, imagine how hard it is to garbage-collect an idea. A name only has one point of attachment into your head. An idea for a company gets woven into your thoughts. So you must consciously discount for that.

Make web sites for galleries—that's the ticket! If you're going to spend years working on something, you'd think it might be wise to spend at least a couple days considering different ideas, instead of going with the first that comes into your head. In fact, this is a constant problem when you're painting still lifes. You plonk down a bunch of stuff on a table, and maybe spend five or ten minutes rearranging it to look interesting. But you're so impatient to get started painting that ten minutes of rearranging feels very long. So you start painting.


Three days later, having spent twenty hours staring at it, you're kicking yourself for having set up such an awkward and boring composition, but by then it's too late. Part of the problem is that big projects tend to grow out of small ones. You set up a still life to make a quick sketch when you have a spare hour, and days later you're still working. I once spent a month painting three versions of a still life i set up in about four minutes. At each point (a day, a week, a month) I thought I'd already put in so much time that it was too late to change. So the biggest cause of bad ideas is the still life effect: you come up with a random idea, plunge into it, and then at each point (a day, a week, a month) feel you've put so much time into it that this must. How do we fix that? I don't think we should discard plunging.

Why Smart people Are Stupid The new Yorker

3 but there were moments when he was optimistic. And if we, who were 29 and 30 at the time, could get excited about such a thoroughly boneheaded idea, we should not be surprised that hackers aged 21 or 22 are pitching us ideas with little hope of making money. The Still Life Effect Why does this happen? Why do good hackers have bad business ideas? Let's look essay at our case. One reason we had such a lame idea was that it was the first thing we thought. I was in New York trying to be a starving artist at the time (the starving part is actually quite easy so i was haunting galleries anyway. When I learned about the web, it seemed natural to mix the two.

smart thinking essay

In fact, software that would let people who wanted sites make their own. So we ditched Artix and started a new company, viaweb, to make software for building online stores. We're in good company here. Microsoft was not the first company paul Allen and Bill Gates started either. The first was called Traf-o-data. It does nutrients not seem to have done as well as Micro-soft. In Robert's defense, he was skeptical about Artix. I dragged him into.

They don't want to have their stock visible to any random visitor, like an antique store. 2, besides which, art dealers are the most technophobic people on earth. They didn't become art dealers after a difficult choice between that and a career in the hard sciences. Most of them had never seen the web before we came to tell them why they should be. Some didn't even have computers. It doesn't do justice to the situation to describe it as a hard sell ; we soon sank to building sites for free, and it was hard to convince galleries even to do that. Gradually it dawned on us that instead of trying to make web sites for people who didn't want them, we could make sites for people who did.

The deadline has now passed, and we're sifting through 227 applications. We expected to divide them into two categories, promising and unpromising. But we soon saw we needed a third: promising people with unpromising ideas. 1, the Artix Phase. We should have expected this. It's mother very common for a group of founders to go through one lame idea before realizing that a startup has to make something people will pay for. In fact, we ourselves did. Viaweb wasn't the first startup Robert Morris and I started. January 1995, we and a couple friends started a company called.

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Want to start paper a startup? Get funded by, y combinator. April 2005, this summer, as an experiment, some friends and i are giving seed funding to a bunch of new startups. It's an experiment because we're prepared to fund younger founders than most investors would. That's why we're doing it during the summer—so even college students can participate. We know from google and Yahoo that grad students can start successful startups. And we know from experience that some undergrads are as capable as most grad students. The accepted age for startup founders has been creeping downward. We're trying to find the lower bound.


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