Kleiner Perkins Partner Mary Meeker’s annual report on internet trends.
Kleiner Perkins Partner Mary Meeker’s annual report on internet trends.
Bill Gurley in 1998. Still seems forward looking and spot on 14 years later.
From a random comment about jargon on an economist.com debate on “Would the economy be better off without MBA students?”
Joseph Kennedy (JFK’s father in a letter to Harvard’s Dean of Freshman). I think this so called bad fault is a common characteristic of many successful and interesting individuals.
Your heroes will inspire you. You will emulate them. Overtime, your heroes will begin to define you.
Growing up, you are introduced to potential heroes by your parents, in school, while watching TV, by your friends, etc. It is your choice to decide which ones you will revere and hold dear. Society and your surroundings have a strong role as well…but in the end, it is your choice.
Choosing the right heroes can lead to you pursuing ambitious projects and careers. If more people had the right heroes…society would be pushed forward faster.
Having the right heroes which leads to inspiration can be the beginning to a lot of wonderful outcomes. Inspiration is powerful. I am reminded of the quotes:
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
Antoine de Saint Exupéry
In the culture of America, in a free culture, you get what you celebrate.
As Dean Kamen says, we need to focus on the demand side of education. Scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and agents of social change need to held up in high regard. Culture is very powerful.
Great parents can inspire their children. Maybe somehow this could be scaled through the educational system and efforts by the media.
I don’t know what the full solution but I know I will make sure that I choose my heroes carefully. I hope you will do the same.
Last week it was announced that Gumroad just raised $7 million dollars from KPCB. Gumroad is based on the super simple concept of selling something with just a link. The concept is simple, almost too simple. Though it is potentially very powerful if it becomes the go to way to sell content on facebook and twitter.
When I met Sahil, the founder of Gumroad, 9 months ago one thing that stuck out was him saying that he thought Gumroad had the potential to become a thing. I was intrigued, usually people don’t talk this way about products. Plus he has a track record of working for startups that have become things: pinterest and Turntable.fm. Despite that track record it was difficult for me to understand how this simple concept would become a thing and also why gumroad would take off instead of an inevitable clone or even a preexisting competitor adding this feature.
When I heard the phrase “the potential to become a thing”, I immediately knew what he was referring to but I still have trouble defining it. Becoming a thing is about being the category killer but with a social cred twist.. Instagram became a thing for sharing photos, Kickstarter became a thing for social fundraising, path is on the verge of becoming a thing for sharing intimate moments of your life and Quora is becoming a thing for answering and asking questions. Becoming a thing comes from a combination of having a strong brand, a great user experience and powerful network effects when applicable. Becoming synonymous with the action that your site allows for is the culmination of becoming a thing. This is how startups are able to take off and become successful de facto monopolies.
Certain products become a thing because they are is so much better than the competitors. Google’s ascent to becoming the top search engine is a great example of this. They had an anti-marketing marketing style that became hip and a simplified user experience but where they really shined was in having search results that were much better than their competitors.
Instagram is an example of how having a great user experience and becoming cool can lead to a startup taking off. The company took off because it became a thing. It became cool to take and share photos with the service. Of course the great user experience was part of it and helped the initial spark. Though now, even if a competitor had the same or even a better user experience it’d just be called a clone and almost certainly couldn’t catch up. Using instagram is the modern day (or should I say retro) version of the kodak moment. Instagram says the service is about “a world more connected through photos” and I think the service gives users a photographer’s lens for viewing the world. Many of my friends excitedly say I have to “instagram this” when referring to taking mobile photos.
A thing can become a fad. Draw Something may end up being in this camp. It may endure with some level of popularity but certain things can have short life cycles, especially games. It is difficult to differentiate between what will last and what will fade. I think products that fulfill basic human needs will sustain while a lot of “non-franchise worthy” games will fade in popularity.
So how does a startup become a thing? That is a hard question and I don’t think there is a straightforward answer. Usually it can’t be predicted before hand. This is why some companies can shoot up in value so quickly once they find product-market fit. The following are areas that startups should focus on if they are hoping to become a thing:
Educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom did a controlled study and found out that the average student tutored one-to-one using the mastery learning technique would perform two standard deviations better (at the 98th percentile level) than the average student receiving instruction via conventional methods. That is just incredible. It means that with the right teaching methods the average student could perform at an extremely high level. Genetics be damned! I know hiring an individual tutor for each student won’t scale but if we could find the right teaching method, maybe every student could perform two standard deviations better. Maybe with further improvement, they could perform even better. What if the new normal became what is considered a genius level of knowledge acquisition currently?
What that would mean for the economy and society at large would be incredible. The true human potential of each individual could be unlocked. It is hard to completely fathom how society would be different but I think it would be better in a lot of ways. The economy would thrive. More intelligent decisions would be made on political and societal issues. More great things would be created.
We need to find better methods of teaching that will replicate the benefits of tutoring at much lower costs. Technology is likely part of the solution but there is still the need for teacher involvement, especially great teacher involvement. As a technology-inclined autodidact, I am tempted to view the likes of Khan Academy and other self-paced, individualized learning tools as the holy grail. They alone are not. They need to be combined with the human element to reach their full potential. Certain types of instruction, such as project based learning, typically require a hands on teacher or mentor. Also, teachers do more than just teach. They motivate, coach, listen and guide their students. Or at least that is what they do at their very best.
On top of better tools and methodologies, we need a psychological shift. Education needs to be valued very highly. Some research has shown that parental attitudes towards education is one of the most impactful variables on a student’s success…sorry, I can’t find the link right now. Determination needs to be taught to whatever extent it can be taught. If students and their parents valued education and had the right values system, educational outcomes would be much higher.
Combine that with better teaching methodologies and techniques and the outcome would be truly amazing.
I am no expert on this subject, but like many, education is a topic that I deeply care about. Growing up, I received a lot of one-on-one tutoring from my older brother, Peter. While I was still in preschool, he taught me what he was learning in his 5th grade math class. This helped boost me ahead in math and ignite my love of learning. I am also thankful that I went to good public schools, had some great teachers along the way and parents that value education. My father even owned two used and out of print bookstores. I had a limited but impactful exposure to self-paced, computer-based learning. Overall, my primary and secondary school experiences were positive. Though, I imagine how my life would be different if I went to bad public schools and my family wasn’t as supportive. My education would have been completely different.
Without those factors, I don’t know if I would have excelled in school and acquired a love for learning. Society ought to do as much as possible to help each student get as good of an education as possible and instill a love of learning. Watch this space!