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When Innovating Violently, Tread Carefully
A note of caution to early founders doing awesome work
I recently met some people innovating (violently), and have been reminded just how resistant society is to systemic change. Some highlights of individuals I’ve met lately:
A man who’s building a space hotel company (a serial founder, who’s built several satellite-manufacturing companies)
Leaders of the cultivated meat industry (in plain english, meat from thin air)
A host of people balls-deep in food tech like you couldn’t imagine
People heavily disrupting the in-person ad-tech space
Beyond that, I’m also familiar with a number of people innovating on financial infrastructure through web3. Unfortunately, not all with great success.
I wanted to write this short essay, because I’ve been rudely reminded of a harsh truth for individuals trying to make large change by themselves.
You saw web3 crash & burn, to some degree because regulatory is so far behind. Also, it's hard to spot, because most of these companies aren't in large spotlights until the world is ready to embrace the change– that drives a lot of survivorship bias. While silicon value has brought much needed glory to entrepreneurial innovation, I think most of the headlines gloss over just how incredibly hard real innovation is to bring to market– from consumer inertia, to regulatory parties playing catch-up. As much as the hyperactive founders & innovators would like to believe, the world isn't prepared for change.
Also, if you want to help, it’s still quite hard, especially on an individual basis.
Unfortunately, most incentives operate on a much more short term basis, and most people don’t have the resources to ignore those incentives. For example, as a VC, you may be able to help these people, but also you have to operate in a way which continues to benefit your stakeholders (investors), and you need to be able to see returns within a reasonable industry-standard timeline of a few years. Regulatory delays can mean a great product will fail for years before it’s a huge success.
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Not to mention, building a business takes business skills. Building a business solving a problem that hasn’t been solved yet, requires deep technical know-how, as well as business skills. If a founder lacks either of those, I doubt they’ll make it alone– and if they bring others on, they’re open to co-founder breakup issues, which are a huge risk (because they’re so common.)
Now, despite this, I don’t mean to write this to discourage individuals working on these problems– by all means, continue to push. However, I think it’s useful to acknowledge that barrier is really much larger than headlines make it seem, and if you’re working on something like this, just hang in, because it’ll probably be a longer ride than you’re prepared for, or expecting.
In the meantime, I’ll cheer you on if you tweet @ me.