Are you building the future?

The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.

Peter Thiel

It is better to risk boldness than triviality

When starting something new, you have to earn your right to exist. Minor improvement over the status quo does not suffice. Humans are predominately risk averse and reluctant towards change, therefore to provoke action requires an irresistible incentive.

A bad plan is better than no plan

“Don’t worry I will just finesse it.” A statement that I use less now as I have been proven on multiple occasions that “Just finessing” actually translates to “Just failing terribly.” A testament to this is when I applied for a TEDx event and embraced the “finesse” approach. Watching the recorded audition afterwards, the combination of  ‘umms…’ and ‘arrs…’ would have led anyone to believe that I was doing a beginner’s course in English. I couldn’t even deduce what the idea of my talk was and I just rambled on about myself for most of it. Contrast this with a bad plan: writing out the script and doing a few brief run-throughs. A ‘bad’ plan highlights that a little preparation can go a long way (see a short clip of my recent talk here).

Competitive markets destroy profits

The education system that has conditioned us for years embodies competition. Grades enable comparison and sorting. Students with the highest marks receive status and are provided with an outstanding record of achievement. Teaching follows the same archaic format across all disciplines, irrespective of individual preferences or talent. Students who struggle to conform to the schooling system are made to feel inferior, while those who excel on conventional measures such as tests and assignments draw an identity as being an ‘intelligent’ individual. Elite students climb up the ranks until they reach a level of competition sufficiently intense to beat their dreams out of them. Fierce rivalries between equally smart peers over conventional careers such as Investment Banking and Management Consultancy plagues the University experience.

The highest prize in the economics undergraduate world is unambiguous: a front office role at an Investment Bank. Thousands of students apply and only a select few get an internship let alone a full-time role. After successfully being selected from a recruiting event on campus, I was one step closer to winning the competition and being set for life. But I was rejected. At the time, I was distraught. Now, I realise that if I had got the internship, my whole life would have been changed for the worse.

Economics 101 will tell you that competition erodes profits. This is not only true for businesses but also individuals. We can become obsessed by the competition and those we are battling against rather than focusing on what matters. If nobody else was doing it, would you still do it?  When I ask a room of over 300 brilliant first year students if they want to work for an Investment Bank and a flood of hands drowns my vision, I worry that we may have become disillusioned by competition.

Sales matter just as much as product

Presuming people will just flock to your excellent new idea or business is a false pretence. When I first launched Summi, eight people signed up to receive emails. I had to convince the rest that they were making the right choice. Sales is the chain that links people to the product. A broken chain and you are finished. Sales has a bad reputation and nobody likes to be ‘sold’ to.  Instead, focusing on your customer just as much as your product will only lead to a good reputation. Elon Musk is not only an accomplished engineer but he is also a prodigious salesman.

You are not a lottery ticket

Peter Thiel

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  1. b

    nice post mate. regarding boldness, i would also mention one idea: capacity for risk-taking decreases with age. too many commitments and pressures mean that doing something radical at an old age is rare. maybe it’s part of the reason why startups tend to be made by young people. so, it’s important to do interesting things when you’re young, like the things you’re doing with summi.

    Liked by 1 person

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