Dogmas of the startup world.
To get more reading into my life, I decided to start a little reading group with some close friends of mine. “What? A reading group?!” I know, I know – the concept of the reading group seems lame at first – like a cliché out of some 90’s sitcom with
working professionals who are so dogged by the grind and have nothing better to do after work than to drink and read books.
Actually, it’s probably closer to some snobby, bougy, high-brow scene from Dead Poet Society. Whatever it is, ramblings aside, it’s an incentive to get more buy-in to some (arbitrary?) thing I want to do. Like traveling, like the marathon, like starting a data science blog… (dataventured.com… work in progress).
So for October, we’re reading Peter Thiel’s Zero to One book. I basically had this book on my shelf for about 2 months now. I got a copy from the Thiel Summit sometime over summer and just left it there to gather dust. Quite sad. So finally picked it up this week and am about 5 chapters in. The book, from what I can gather so far (along with all the fanfare on social media) is a collection of thoughts and ideas about building businesses – it’s quite easy to read and distills what could otherwise be convoluted business school concepts into simple layman terms .
Anyway, one point that Thiel points out from the getgo is this notion that most people believe in things because, well, they do. He doesn’t go into why he thinks they do but just that people generally do not go out of their way to challenge conventional wisdom (go read Gladwell. It’s almost all he talks about). Specifically though, for my interests at 5AM is when that notion is applied to business practices.
In Thiel’s terms, the ‘dogmas of the startup world’ today, post dot-com looks like the following:
- Make incremental advances
- Stay lean and flexible
- Improve on the competition
- Focus on product, not sames
He argues that perhaps the opposite principles may be more correct:
- It is better to risk boldness than triviality.
- A bad plan is better than no plan.
- Competitive markets destroy profits.
- Sales matters just as much as product.
For me, I think the former and latter points are not mutually exclusive. It seems that the former dogma-tic points are more pertinent to day-to-day operations of a business while the latter are more ‘strategic’ considerations. Whatever the case, these are things that I think about daily with regards to the work we do at Mattermark – and as I read the chapter (Chapter 2: Pary Like It’s 1999 if you’re reading along), I couldn’t help but mentally benchmark my work with the sentiments presented.
To refrain letting this ‘short’ post get out of hand, I’ll just summarize my conclusions in a few sentences. Firstly, I think it’s always great to have bold customer-focused visions – that’s what will drive where a company goes and how each contributor thinks about the problems they solve daily . Secondly, I’m super thankful to be a part of a team that values sales as much as product (and engineering); I had a great lunch with one of our new sales executuves yesterday and chatted about everything from products, to outbound strategies, to venture capital. These conversations are really what keeps everyone mindful of their work.
 To be fair, most books in the startup world seem to be this way. It’s definitely not a bad thing by any means. Apologies if my comment came off that way.
 Many of the problems that Mattermark works on daily are things that our customers have never seen before. It’s quite an interesting place to be – at the place where you have an opportunity to contribute to greater dialogue – conclusions of which are yet to be written.