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27.5.14

Why this blog?

By National Photo Company [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There are countless blogs already online about startups, including some major sites such as TechCrunch, VentureBeat and many, many more. Why start another one? What could I possibly contribute that hasn't already been said?

Well, first off, as a serial startist, I have a strong occipital response against the "it's already been done/said" argument, which often serves as an excuse to not act. Common traits found among those who choose the startup path include some strongly-held beliefs: that anything can be made new, that anything can be improved upon, that no competitor is so dominant or entrenched that they cannot be flanked by some innovative or disruptive approach.

Second, my own startup path has been unusual, perhaps unique, in its timing and geography. My first startup was founded in 1987; our team got a lot of blank stares when we went on & on about the "Internet." My career timeline covers the moment the Internet became a commons, the birth of the Web and the advent of mobile technology from its initially-awkward to its current more agreeable forms. In short, I was a witness to All The Ways Everything Changed.

I've been part of the startup scene on two continents -- for most of my life in the United States, and since 2010 primarily in Paris, France. The experience of these very different startup ecosystems has given me perspective that would have been hard to reach had I spent all my time in just one of these worlds.

Browsing through available content online, I found much that was interesting and very little that was useful. If you just want news about deals done, who's hot, trends etc. then you're already well-served by what's available in the blogosphere. But if you want practical, actionable advice, information you can put to use right away, well, that's a bit harder to find.

My main reason for writing this blog is rather ambitious. It is to, not so much start a movement,  but to give voice to a movement that is already developing. Yet its proponents do not necessarily perceive themselves as belonging to a movement. What characterizes this movement? Here are some of its properties – not a rigorous definition, just a few salient points:

  • Startups with very ambitious goals are being created by co-founders who have no aspiration to massive wealth – that is to say, they do not dream of being the next Larry Page or Mark Zuckerberg
  • Startups developing business models that, from Day 1, factor in a leveling off of revenue growth instead of the sky-is-the-limit approach that has defined (and bedeviled) entrepreneurship since the late nineteenth century
  • Companies that define their contribution to society and their adherence to moral principles as Key Performance Indicators rather than nice-to-have secondary objectives

It's a long-running debate: when, and for what purposes, should we rely on the State to improve our lot in life, and when & for what should we rely on the Market?

On the edges of the debate, there is fairly broad consensus: few want governments making toasters, and few want private-sector institutions writing laws. The flashpoint of this debate is in the middle: whether scientific research, for instance, is best conducted by the public sector, the private sector, or some hybrid. What I sense in this new breed of startups, what analysts like to call a weak signal, is the possible emergence of a Third Way – an approach to human endeavors that takes the state/market debate off the table by transcending its constraints altogether. I want to contribute in any way I can to that emergence, and until I find the best way to contribute, at the very least I want to write about it.

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