I’m at my core an inventor.
While this is easy to romanticize in the age of Sergei Brin and Mark Zuckerberg, these highly successful stars are the visible tip of an iceberg, in which, fitting the metaphor, many more are underwater.
The problem is historically, inventors are more likely to end up like Nikola Tesla (brilliant, broke) than Thomas Edison. Extracting the value from inventions requires the attitudes of Carlos “Slim” Helu or at the very least, Steve Jobs whose cash motivation was far greater than his co-founder, Steve Wozniak. Steve Jobs’ genius was his ability to shape Apple products enough, then stir consumer desire enough to “overpay” for them, i.e. engineer products worth far more than the sum of the required parts.
May we all learn from his model – RIP.
Peter Thiel in Zero to One mentioned he has an interview question in which he asks founders where the world is mistaken. I think this is more than just an interview question – it’s critical to thinking about founding a business.
Since I’m already over-using metaphors, I need to drop another: Wayne Gretzky’s now over-used but still true cliché “skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been” – and this is where it comes together.
In short, there’s only a few ways to get this metaphorical puck: (1.) execute faster, so you simply reach it first, or (2.) the competitors are all mistaken about where the puck is in fact going, which happens, or (3.) be lucky and simply already in the right position.
While none of the above are inherently defensible, they can of course lead to a short term gain which can be capitalized into a working moat.
Steve Jobs believed the world was mistaken, and actually did want a tablet computer, contrary to Microsoft’s previous endeavors.
Mark Zuckerberg had the forsight to believe MySpace and Friendster were both mistaken in their execution of connecting people.
Larry Page and Sergei Brin believed Yahoo’s human curation, Alta Vista’s crude spidering and other players were all mistaken.
None started as obvious successes. A steady capitalization of wins led each to dominance.
So, in your business, what is the world mistaken about?
To date, I’ve been bootstrapping SwiftCloud, patiently building component applications, which stand on their own. Individually, they’re just innovations, not truly disruptive. The value will become clear as multiple separate components (all in the B2B space – CRM, marketing, e-signature, etc.) come together into a tightly integrated whole and mini-brand.