Thursday, July 14, 2011

What are you doing here?

Entrepreneurship is hard work. So entrepreneurs should focus on problems that matter. If they ask me, I suggest BHAWGs and focusing on "What sucks?". It all gets down to "what you are doing here?" How are you using your time and talent?

Hermione Way had a provocative post yesterday on Silicon Valley, and her impression that it has lost its way. As she asks: "What happened to irreverence, thinking outside the box, wanting to make a difference in the long run?" The thread through her post seems to be: what a waste of talent, money and ecosystem.

She writes that Silicon Valley entrepreneurship seems to be driven by money and exits. Interestingly, a recent survey of many of these companies would counter that claim. StartUpGenome surveyed 650 startups, and the data indicate that impact and experience matter more than money.

Do these worthy motivations survive the funding process? Bringing in outside investors can
either jeopardize a company's mission, or reinforce it. It depends on alignment between founders and funders. Many VC funds are investing other people's money, and those other people have asked for high returns. But impact investors are emerging, in Bay Area and elsewhere, and that may begin to change the system.

I'd encourage Ms. Way not to give up on Silicon Valley. It isn't just Y Combinator and Sand Hill Rd. Outside of the glare of the mainstream, there are worthy enterprises that may indeed change the world. They are in the eddies and edges, but they are there. Earlier vintage companies include Kiva, PAX Scientific, D.Light, Revolution Foods and many clean tech companies.

For earlier stage, the Unreasonable Institute entrepreneurs are visiting the SF Hub on July 18-19. While not based in Silicon Valley, they understand the value of its unique funding ecosystem. And I think many of them know what they
are doing here. Trying to hack it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Don't Fight Awe

It is easy to be cynical. "That will never work."

It is easy to be apathetic. "Why should I care."

It is hard (some days) to be an artist, builder, creator, discoverer or entrepreneur (and that is just "A" through "E").

If you discover something awesome, don't fight it. If you find awe, you are lucky. Embrace it. Awe is an effective antidote to cynicism and apathy. It is worth looking for. And examining when you find it. Why does this thing/experience/being make you feel this way? How is it designed? Is it designed at all, or has it evolved? What is common to the things that awe you?

Awesome things aren't always what everyone is talking about. Sometimes you find them by yourself. Alone. Then you get to decide whether to share them, and with whom.

The Grand Canyon, flight, a leaf, an inspiring idea, powder skiing, a fishing spot.

Be an awe hunter.