Friday, September 21, 2012

Dr No

I keep getting approached by entrepreneurial types who Thave ideas, or I have ideas of my own. My natural tendency is to try to think of the things that could trip them up, make them fail, etc.

There is undoubtedly an inherent value to healthy skepticism in this context. The statistics around start-ups are not all that encouraging. Over the last couple of days in the Wall Street Journal I saw a story that said that something like 3 out of 4 venture-backed start-ups fail. And those are just the ones that are lucky enough to get venture money. So many start-ups are of the type that used to sleep in a shoebox on a lake bed, and wake up in the middle of the night to lick the lake bed dry with their tongues.

In any case, internal team members need to kick the shit out of the tires of any new enterprise on a continual basis to make sure they are road ready.

On the other hand, my deeply ingrained critical inclination may be informed by the fact that I'm the child of an alcoholic dreamer, someone who had business ideas all the time that were going to change the world, but brought very few of them to fruition. Even more so, I have a pretty strong bias towards believing that almost nothing is going to work out for the best. I basically am catastrophic in my thought patterns. As my sister and I have discussed, this would make us good risk managers.

However, there's a risk of this thought pattern degrading into a version of Zeno's paradoxes as described by Parmenides, back in the day. Basically the idea is that, because to traverse any distance, you must first traverse half of it, you can never get anywhere, because this is true for even the smallest increment. I.e. to go 8 meters, I must first go 4. To go 4, I must first go 2. To go 2, I must first go 1, etc.According to Parmenides, this proved that all motion was illusion. I wonder if my bones don't half agree.

I think that to play in the entrepreneurial world there is a need to suspend disbelief and just dive in, which is something I have been somewhat loath to do, perhaps because I spent so much time treading water in the pool of Russian Literature. Not that the water wasn't great.

1 comment:

Hilary said...

Nice post.