Living in Multiple Futures
Maybe the neatest, and most ineffable, characteristic of founders is that they can see the future. Or rather, they can see the way that they want the world to be, and they’re motivated to make the world look like that. (Brings to mind Alan Kay’s famous quote: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”)
The very best entrepreneurs can not only see how they want the world to be, but can articulate a plan on how to get from here to there. It’s amazingly fun to work with special founders like that — there’s really nothing quite like it.
And so these founders can balance living in the future with living in the now, and can hold the deltas in their heads pretty well.
As a VC, I’m finding an odd consequence of this, though, which is that I find myself trying to live in multiple possible futures at once. When you hear a founder talk about how they’re going to change the world, you try to play forward and see if you can believe it. But when you’re talking with many entrepreneurs a week, about each vision of the future — and the visions can be the same, or reinforcing, or subtly different, or wildly different — it’s actually kind of disconcerting, but in an amazing & interesting kind of way.
I remember working at Apple as an intern back in 1995 and telling my dad I felt like I was living in the future — because we had ethernet (10 Mbit!) to every machine, network shared disks with all sorts of apps on them, Newtons, stuff like that. Obviously, Apple-circa-1995 is not exactly the future we all came to actually live in. Sometimes the vision is true, sometimes not so much. (Newton!)
But ultimately, I think that’s one of the reasons I like living and working in Silicon Valley so much. Everyone is off inventing new futures, trying them on, seeing how they fit. Ultimately such an optimistic and constructive activity, even if it can be a little murky and confusing along the way.