Yes, yes, yes. Excellent op-ed piece. This isn’t about them failing. It’s about us not taking control of and being our own government. We can fix us. We will. But it must be “we.”
Not Always Up & To the Right
There’s a fascinating piece in the New York Times today by Nick Bilton — it’s an excerpt of his upcoming book chronicling the history of Twitter. It’s about Jack, Biz, Ev, and on and on. For the record: all amazing, smart, talented people who’ve very clearly changed our world in many ways over the past few years.
It’s a story of intrigue: lots of twists & turns, betrayals. It’ll be great material for the movie, too, no doubt.
But having seen my fair share of the creation of new companies, I wonder if the lessons here will get a little bit lost in all the drama. From my point of view, here’s the main thing: travels of startups are never purely up & to the right. They’re never a straight line from idea to world changing (and in this case to IPO). They’re never simple stories. They’re never really very clear. They’re never really understandable from any one point of view.
What they are is a lot of work. Hand wringing over whether people will love or even understand what you’re doing. Hustling to find the very best people you can find to build it with you.
What they are is lots of engineers staring at screens & screens of code, on epic hunts to kill their own fail whales. Designers sweating the details of how the things work, how to make it as useful as possible, how to help people grok this new thing at all.
The status quo is the status quo for some set of reasons. By starting up, or joining one, you’re engaging in a creative rebellion. To change the way things are; to upset people who have a vested interest in that status quo. But you’re joyfully jumping into the breach. It’s messy, unclear, hard to see your way through.
The parts of what Nick wrote that spoke most powerfully to me are the ones about the principals not being sure of what they were doing. Of circling around an idea again and again until it had just the right form & context to maybe, sort of, just barely have a shot at working.
But in addition to understanding the huge contributions of the founders, I truly hope that in loving the glitzy spy story, people don’t lose sight of the many, many, many people not named Jack or Biz or Ev who sweated & bled for Twitter, who worked days and nights and weekends and more, who put up this ridiculous little toy (or so everyone thought) that’s changing so much of how we live and communicate and learn today.
Timehop surfaces all sorts of amazing things for me nearly every day, from pictures of fun stuff we did with our kids to SMS convos about companies to hater tweets from Jim Lanzone about how bad Stanford football will be, soon, I guess? Dunno!
But a couple of days ago it resurfaced a tweet from Naval along the lines of “Every time I start to think startups are easy, reality smacks me in the head.”
That’s truth. We start to think they’re easy, because we have massive survivor bias in the press, in the products we use, among our friends. We live & breathe things once they’ve worked, once they’ve become.
It makes us forget that the making is always, always messy. That it’s through a glass, darkly. That you never really know how far you are from home, or how to get back there. That nearly every day, you’re heading off into the unknown, with a plan, but no certainty.
I’ve been blown away this week by a few founders I know as they find their way home, without a map. So much unknown, so much uncharted space, so much TBD. Here be dragons.
But they go. They think and build and try and fail and build some more and win and fail and win. And they keep going. Such determination, such grace.
And that’s the thing. The best founders, they keep sight of what they think the world should be — what they know it can be. And they keep moving.
Such a privilege to be part of that.