Why I Love Startups, the Hacker Mentality, and Disruptive Innovation

Growing up, I never really thought about startups, or working at one, much less starting my own thing.  But I’ve grown to love it.  Absolutely love every part of it.  I think this quote from Walden,  sums it up  best:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

Instead of “the woods” insert, “start this startup” and you’ve got my life. At some level, I think we all want the ability to understand what life is all about, to reduce life to its most basic elements, and most importantly know that you have lived- really LIVED.  I think the way you know that is by measuring how much you’ve grown, changed, or matured, over time- and in what direction.  Life keeps going by, whatever we decide to do- and knowing that my life is being lived gives me incredible peace of mind. I don’t worry about growing old because I know that I’ll be that much older, smarter, wiser, and happier.

Which brings me to Hackers, and the Hacker Mentality.  I think this quote, from Eric Raymond’s document How to Be a Hacker (which I highly recommend) sums up my love of the Hacker Community:

Work as intensely as you play and play as intensely as you work. For true hackers, the boundaries between “play”, “work”, “science” and “art” all tend to disappear, or to merge into a high-level creative playfulness. Also, don’t be content with a narrow range of skills. Though most hackers self-describe as programmers, they are very likely to be more than competent in several related skills — Hackers don’t do things by halves; if they invest in a skill at all, they tend to get very good at it.

And also, totally jiving with their point on being a social outcast & associated benefits:

Contrary to popular myth, you don’t have to be a nerd to be a hacker. It does help, however, and many hackers are in fact nerds. Being something of a social outcast helps you stay concentrated on the really important things, like thinking and hacking.  If you’re attracted to hacking because you don’t have a life, that’s OK too — at least you won’t have trouble concentrating. Maybe you’ll get a life later on.

(Answer: Probably Not)

Honestly, it’s really interesting what happens when you stop thinking about extraneous things, and concentrate on: thinking and working. I see the world so differently now.  It’s ridiculous.  And many things really don’t make sense.  So I just tend to write them down and figure out how to adjust/fix them if they need fixing. Don’t know what to do with it yet, but I have a growing list.

Which brings me to the final point, on purpose and doing great things.  Disruptive Innovation.  I’ve been on the startup fundraising circuit, so I get to see other startup pitches now quite frequently.  And it’s amazing how…similar they are.  Some mobile/tech/web 2.0 thing that’s probably going to get funded and make a bunch of money because guess what, that’s what happens in this community.  But man, it feels so cool to pitch and when I get to the “competitors” slide, I have to say: Well, we’re doing something completely new, we have no competitors, and we’re creating new markets.  Most of this is speculation, but guess what, if we do this right, we’re going to be the next big thing since sliced bread.  People look at you like you’re crazy, but guess what, that’s what most people thought when anything worth doing was being done.

I guess I’m just thankful I have this amazing opportunity to…live.


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