Do you want to sell sugar water or do you want to change the world?

“Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or come with me and change the world?” – Steve Jobs

I sometimes wish that instead of working on internet and software projects, I worked on cleantech or biotech projects. That way, when I came home at night, I’d know that I had literally spent my day trying to cure cancer or prevent global warming.  But information technology is what I know, and it’s probably too late for me to learn a new field from scratch.

That doesn’t mean information technology can’t improve people’s lives. Google’s search engine helps people find information, which, for example, makes cancer and cleantech researchers more productive. Skype allows companies to collaborate remotely, and connects people with friends and family around the world. In the area of information technology, we create infrastructure and hope that people use it for more good than bad.

That said, the best entrepreneurs seem to follow a path of increasing gravitas. Scott Heiferman started out selling online ads and is now creating new communities. Jack Dorsey created Twitter and is now democratizing payments so sole proprietors can compete on a level playing field with large companies. Elon Musk started with online payments and is now developing electric cars and space programs.

Founders of large companies sometimes also follow the path of increasing gravitas. Google is developing new energy technologies, self-driving cars and other world-changing technologies. Bill Gates devotes almost all of his time and money to charity.

The tech press is preoccupied with investments, trends, exits, and other “inside baseball” topics. But these are all means to an end. Investments provide fuel for entrepreneurs to convert ideas into products. Trends shape the terrain that entrepreneurs navigate. Exits provide financial incentives for investors and entrepreneurs.

Tim O’Reilly says that entrepreneurs should try to create more value than they capture. You can make money selling people obfuscated financial products, entertaining them with mind-numbing TV shows, or selling them sugar water decorated in elegant designs.

Alternatively, you can make something that matters and — if you are lucky and smart — change the world.

77 thoughts on “Do you want to sell sugar water or do you want to change the world?

  1. Never under-estimate the power of delighting people. If you make an application and it gets loved by users, as much as, say, Instagram, you’re doing amazingly well.

  2. Love your post!   Another angle would be to be the modern day Robin Hood – sell to the rich obfuscated financial products, entertaining them with mind-numbing TV shows, and sell them sugar water to use that money to find a cure to cancer, educate people out of poverty, fix global warming etc. :)

  3. Beautifully stated. To your early point that what you do isn’t directly helping others – I feel that whatever you’re doing can enable you to contribute to changing the world in other ways. Perhaps financially, if you have the means with your salary and obligations. Perhaps with your time, i.e. mentoring the architecture / communications / social spheres / etc. – areas where you have expertise – of people and/or organizations whose efforts _do_ focus exclusively on helping others. We all have different roles; some are just more of a support structure than a hands-on one.
    For example, I support Charity: Water with monthly donations, but I feel that’s passive – it’s automatically subtracted each month from my account and doesn’t register personally as much as hands-on work does. So I want to go beyond that and help locally-based charities whose messages speak to me (like Refugee One, in Chicago) with my knowledge and time … this, I’m working to do.

  4. Delighting people is certainly important, but I think delighting people should be a means to creating a greater, more meaningful change. I haven’t heard any stories of anyone being inspired by Instagram, Instagram making something possible for the layperson that wasn’t before, or somebody doing something incredible because of the app. Twitter has done that. Tumblr has done that. Kickstarter does that. Skillshare does that. Foursquare does that. Instagram doesn’t. 

    I have respect for the app, as it’s clearly caught on and people love it, but then again, sugar water does the same thing.

  5. What’s fascinating is how rapidly IT is changing the way other industries operate.  Take Jonathan Rothberg form Ion Torrent who is leveraging the multibillion dollar semiconductor industry to create more efficient methods for gene sequencing.  Or Jeff Hammerbacher from Cloudera who is evangelizing big data across a number of industries like energy and telecommunications.  

    Exciting to see tech entrepreneurs apply what they know to improve industries outside their immediate domain.  

  6. Chris, ask Scott to share his thoughts on why “people are just going to walk away”. He presented his hypothesis to the Meetup team a couple weeks ago (I was a summer Intern) and it was one of the most inspiring talks I’ve ever seen.

    On another note, I want to change the world by helping people better understand what’s happening in the world around them. Take the Debt Crisis – monotone news articles, sensationalized personalities and one-sided press conferences just don’t cut it.

    I’ve teamed up with a HackNY Fellow to capitalize on this hypothesis. Evan Korth and Jonah Peretti are Advisors. I would love to get your take on our MVP!

  7. Software engineers are well positioned to change the world. After 10 years of doing startups I moved to Kathmandu, Nepal three years ago and trained up 35 Ruby on Rails engineers. We are launching a product at Techcrunch Disrupt in SF Sept 12th that we hope can create work for 1 million people in developing countries. My wife and I absolutely love Nepal and developing world-changing tech in a third world country like this makes motivation easy. We are surrounded every day by the largest untapped resource in the world today – human potential. Check out sprout-technology.com and cloudfactory.com if you’d like to hear more about one small attempt to make something that matters.

  8. charlietrouble says:

    Demand for ever better graphics in games has led to the development of GPUs. Because of their better price/performance ratio compared to CPUs they can be suitable for scientific simulations. Demand better graphics and help science!

  9. Adrian Sallis says:

    Nice post. While there are plenty of companies that build software that are essentially tools used to improve lifestyle or communication, there are some sectors where the online apps we create can be truly transformative to the same level as the biotech/clean energy examples you gave. 

    The education sector is such, where education, both in its dissemination and presentation, is being transformed by web and mobile software apps. I’m of the opinion that unbiased, easily available access to education and knowledge is a key influencer in shaping a better world across all aspects of society from providing people the tools to come up with the next big medical breakthrough to bridging political and religious divides. My own company, Vital English (unabashed plug) develops innovative online English products and it feels great to wake up in the morning knowing that tens of thousands of people across the world are using it to better communicate with each other.

  10. An awesome post. You certainly don’t have to work on a cleantech or biotech project to change the world, but obviously not all entrepreneurs are in it to change the world either. Some are in it just for the money, fame, etc.

    Is there an easy way to spot those that are looking to change the world vs. those who aren’t?

  11. I took a few years off from software startups to make a run at renewable energy (in a foreign country to boot).  Man, was the slow pace frustrating and  I ran back to software.  I could easily fool acquaintances that I was “saving the world” but I knew that I’d have a bigger impact working on real problems in a space that moves magnitudes faster (and isn’t hampered by government intervention).

  12. You struck something deep. And I agree with you but here’s my problem (and my story).

    My dream is to re-invent light rail technology and make it cheap and affordable to small and mid-size cities. The right time to install a light rail system is when a city is young, before the cost of acquiring land skyrockets (New York, L.A., etc…), however, light rail costs $20 million per mile and so it’s out of reach. Also, there is a 5-30 year waiting period for the areas around stations to begin building building up (physically and in value) Light rail and other mass transit is traditionally flawed, it has a high cost of operating during downtime and rolling stock is heavy, expensive, and sluggish (55 mph max). Capacity is high but frequency is low. People have shown that they prefer low capacity + high frequency (cars) over high capacity + low frequency (bus & rail) transit. Light rail sounds good in theory but case after case shows that it does not significantly impact traffic and pollution, that’s just bull shit the contractors tell the public when it comes time to vote on an extension.

    My idea is this: I want to design a system using narrow gauge (much cheaper) 2″ or 2 1/2″ gauge instead of the standard 4″ 8 1/2′ with 6″ wide low floor (faster accessible) rolling stock instead of 9″ or 10″ wide high floor rolling stock. Basically mini-trains. Then combine Google’s driverless car software with my trains, automating them and eliminating the need for thousands of train operators (with their expensive unions and occasional strikes). We’ve solved 3 massive problems here, smaller rail gauges are much much cheaper to build and maintain, smaller trains are too, also they create less wear and tear on the rails and use less electricity so we can run more trains per hour at a faster speed and during off peak hours because we’re not wasting electricity moving around massive 20,000 pound empty stock around. Instead of using cantenary lines I want to use Bombardier’s Primove (wireless electricity) technology, eliminating the need for electric wires above the trains (which are costly to maintain and less energy efficient in the long run) This small foot print means we can fit rail 3 lines in the same space it takes to fit 2 standard gauge lines. Because we’re using low floor rolling stock we can make loading and unloading incredibly faster by using the doors on both sides of the train, one side to exit the other side to enter. The small trains mean we hit a capacity problem, but we can solve that using modern technology. Cameras at stations can monitor and count faces and send out more or longer trains as well as plan ahead using an algorithm to dynamically create express routes skipping unnecessary stops. 

    I’m not an engineer, haven’t built anything, everything I have is on paper and works out in theory, but it would take hundreds of millions of dollars in consulting fees, patents, and research and development to realize my vision of light rail. On top of it all, this might not work, if it does, I will have beaten the other companies to it. High risk, high reward. But how am I suppose to make it work? Let alone convince investors to invest. BIG world changing ideas are risky and expensive so instead, I and people like me stick to “sugar water”. It’s so much easier for us to start companies that entertain people with videos or messages from their friends, or sell group coupon schemes to businesses who will later regret running them. 

    Most of us have world changing ideas, but they are out of reach. Starting a Zynga, Groupon, or Facebook is so much easier. Sorry world.

  13. Don’t forget Steve Jobs was also quoted as saying “Things don’t have to change the world to be important.” This doesn’t contradict your point, but I think too often people lose motivation for doing meaningful work because it doesn’t have a direct impact on the world or its impact isn’t obvious.

    Which leads me to another Jobs quote: “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”

    Do great work and assume the rest will follow. I think that’s the best any of us can do.

  14. david_delser says:

    The power of IT to change lives directly and change the world for the much better is nothing to sneer at. The growing field (or approach) of social enterprises focuses on maximizing impact on the least privileged. 
    For a few examples of how IT improves lives across the world:
    * Donorschoose.org is approaching $100M channeled to the poorest schools and students in the US
    * mPesa in Kenya has enabled 8M people to have their first bank account through their mobile phones
    * Pharmasecure is protecting millions of Indians from counterfeit drugs
    * and we at Frogtek are working hard to bring basic business tools to micro-entrepreneurs, riding on the smartphone-cloud revolutions

    You don’t have to wait until you’ve made millions to start changing the world for the better. An alternative approach is to dedicate your youthful energies to change the world first and, having learned a few valuable lessons, later sort out your finances.

  15. Ah thank you for the link. Although I’m staying far away from Personal Rapid Transit. A problem with a lot of these PRT systems is that they don’t scale up, you might as well add an a lane of road and get the same capacity upgrade for cheaper because aside from their terribly low capacity, it’s costly to construct the viaducts to hold them, they aren’t low floor, and they use rubber tires (non efficient) instead of rail, and the list goes on and on.

  16. Ugh. I’m sick of the Apple lust that has consumed tech news in the past week.

    Certainly the main point of this post and the substance of many of the comments is quite insightful: we can make a difference in IT and should do that instead of working on meaningless projects, and certainly instead of fleecing people. But that’s not what Steve Jobs did.

    Apple has certainly designed and sold some cool technologies. But they require their consumers to give up the freedoms to tinker, modify, and share their technology in exchange. Sometimes (as in the case of their use of BSD) they borrowed heavily from open source and didn’t bother returning the favor. Worse, they have some of the most restrictive licensing in our industry and a terribly litigious legal department. They are a profit hungry, anti-competitive, patent-abusing powerhouse.

    The internet we love and depend on is possible because of free, open technologies, many of which have been improved-upon because they have been freely shared for decades. Can we not celebrate and find inspiration from the work of the inventors of the relational database, bytecode interpreted languages, asymmetric encryption algorithms, TCP/IP, SSL, web standards, etc.? What a foolish group we are if instead of praising and learning from the engineers who freely provide the most important contributions to our industry we celebrate the businessmen who spend the most marketing dollars and ship the shiniest toys.

  17. Greg Fodor says:

    This is an insightful post, and covers a concept I struggle with immensely. On the one hand, your first venture can be one poised to change the world. But, startups are risky, and experience is important. This, combined with the fact that ‘change the world’ startups are generally riskier, means you’re really setting yourself up to fail.

    On the other hand, you can start a company focused on a more superficial but less risky product, like marketing, social gaming, or whatever the latest trend is, and use it as a way to gather experience and hopefully have a nice exit. From there, you are in a much better position to attack the larger, more ambitious problems that you wanted to in the first place.

    The challenge with the second path is keeping your head screwed on straight through the process, which could take years. You can start to drink your own kool-aide and think that the superficial problem you set out on is actually a world-changing one. It’s hard not to, when this is the message you need to relay to your customers and your investors (for whom it may very well be the biggest problem they can wrap their own minds around.) You can see decades of your life pass by, the dream you originally had becoming a distant memory and your life being consumed by the world you’ve created for yourself with the low risk, low ambition domain you entered.

    I’m not sure which one is the best path. It’s also of course never this simple. But it’s important and there are stories of great leaders and entrepreneurs who, more or less, have followed either path pretty clearly.

  18. Jessica Darko says:

    More importantly, Steve Jobs has demonstrably changed the world for these better… the socialist scumbags only want to enslave everybody and change the world into a global USSR.  Of course they will lie and claim that they are “helping people”, just as the Soviets claimed in the bolshevik revolution to be helping the proletariat.

    The real motivation, of course, is that these socialist assholes want to profit on the backs of the poor.  They think “wealth redistribution” will profit them selves.

  19. Isaac Yonemoto says:

    Someone needs to put some money into open-source or no-IP biotech.  As a person for whom “biotech is what I know” (and who dabbles in programming enough to have a feel for the culture), I will tell you that is the biggest frustration.  It should, in theory, be possible to start a straight-to-generic drug company, for example, and everyone in bio KNOWS that IP is broken here.  But nobody wants to do it because the VC system demands IP upfront.  The problem is that all the smart people in bio are knee-deep in the system – or young and burnt out or poor because of the also broken PhD/PostDoc system.  There are very few people who are passionate about destroying Bio IP (as I am) who have ‘made it’ far enough to make a difference (as I have not).

  20. There is a difference between being social to each other and having a dictatorship abusing the term social you fool.

    The rich can only be rich because there are people not being rich and buying the stuff they produce. They use the resources the state provides, they take from the nature (which belongs to everybody). So they have to give a share from what they achieve.

    And the rich can’t be happy when the poor are not happy, because they eventually get their ass kicked.

  21. RationalBias says:

    Will you please just shut up? I, and every thinking person on the Internet, is sick tired of you and your FOX News ilk’s senseless drivel, blanket statements, and accusations. Stop projecting grand evil motives onto your perceived enemies and just focus on trying to make the world a better place.

  22. Your first sentence assumes that working on internet/software projects and biotech/cleantech projects are mutually exclusive. There are many opportunities to apply your internet/software know-how to biotech/cleantech startups. You just need to find the right problem/co-founder(s) (from the latter field) to marry your know-how with. And you can create some very meaningful products/services.

    At hunch you are dealing with massive data problems. I am sure that there are many applications in biotech/cleantech that could use your know-how in that area. So learning something from scratch is not required to jump into a new field. 

    Also, why not learn something from scratch? It is never too late. After all, learning new things in completely new fields can unleash totally unexpected potential.

    That is what I have been trying to do in my own little way. After my semi-successful exit from my first startup selling sugar water (a european social network similar to friendster/myspace), I decided to look into entrepreneurship opportunities in education, cleantech, and healthcare. Shortly after, I teamed up with the right team to co-found a knowledge and distribution platform for the solar industry.

    I feel so much richer now, having learned so much about a new industry that I knew so little about just 2 years ago. Also, I feel good about not selling sugar-water anymore.

  23. RationalBias says:

    “class warfare” isn’t that Republican code to returning the top marginal tax rate to where they were under Reagan? Everyone sees through your newspeak and propoganda, sorry. Does it sting that Jobs is a hippie Liberal? Namaste.

  24. Chris, I’ve been an entrepreneur in design, sustainable ag, and cleantech. Before diving in for this latest round I took a lot of time to think about where the greatest contribution can be. The problems we face are bi-products of what we’ve created in the past. The greatest leverage will come from enabling us individually and collectively, to create better futures, sooner. There is no ‘field’ with greater potential in making this happen than ‘information technology’. It’s just a question of how you apply it. That’s the opportunity. Game on.

  25. That’s utter BS.

    The rich are only rich because they provide value to those of us who buy their products and services.

    Steve Jobs didn’t take from anyone to make the iPhone. He bought all of those raw materials from someone else for the value they provided him.

    It’s the fact that he added so much value in between that he became rich. And God bless him for doing so.

    Take an economics course.

  26. That’s a hilarious comment.

    Steve Jobs was a capitalist, pure and simple, and a very successful one. His work was not about redistributing a fixed pie of wealth. He grew the pie tremendously – making himself very rich in the process, and making the rest of us more productive and wealthy as well.

    He’s the perfect example of what we need: fewer redistributing leaches, and more capitalists that make the United States and the world a more prosperous place.

  27. I don’t want to get in a Apple religious battle, but I think you could argue their record is mixed at worst.  E.g. Webkit is open source and supports open standards. But this wasn’t meant to be a post primarily about Apple.  People have debated that elsewhere endlessly.

  28. Good points all, and very abmirable and noble intent. However, a lot of technology that appears to be helping people has unintended consequences later on down the line. All we can do is do what we love, and hope that it has unintended positive impact at some point.

  29. Yeah, cleantech especially is incredibly hard.  Requires tons of capital and you are competing against mega-giant companies with vast resources and influence.

  30. Interesting.  But don’t the FDA regulatory hurdles require tons of capital?  How would you make that money back if competitors could immediately copy you after you did all the hard work of research and getting through the FDA?

  31. Yeah, startups are tough, and especially first time entrepreneurs can’t be expected to “change the world” in addition to simply getting by.  That’s why I try to highlight people who have already had a lot of success and have more choices as a result.

  32. Similar thoughts coursing through my head while reading Chris’ post.

    My 2 cents: Deal with the lion in your living room.

    After that you can think about what’s next.

  33. I’m not talking of Steve alone, I’m talking about the whole system. I’m no economist, but I try to bring in some common sense. So where are the raw materials coming from, who owns those raw materials, what about production and when the environment is polluted and who takes care of waste?

    Not companies are taking responsibility for this, it’s the general public who has to take care. Who paid the bailout for the banks? Bankers got rich, but the rest has to pay for it.

    Maybe the system is fundamentally flawed and I don’t see the advantages anymore.

    My intention was to say something about the “wealth redistribution” mentioned above.

  34. Right.  I think there are some interesting plays at the intersection of software and cleantech but there have been lots of false starts thus far.  Moving electrons as data is a lot easier than as electricity.

  35. NicolasVDB says:

    Chris,
    Do you recognize the irony of your title? your quote is what Steve Jobs used to convince John Sculley to become Apple’s CEO and subsequently ship out Steve Jobs to a 10 year hiatus. 
    God only knows how different the (tech) world would be today if Steve had shut up that fateful 1983 evening in NYC!!!

  36. Mixing this up with the bank bailouts is confusing the issue – there is no relationship.

    Steve Jobs never asked for a bailout and never needed one.

    Government is to blame for the bailouts going to the bankers – and that goes for the Republicans and Democrats in government.

    But let’s be clear: our system of free market capitalism has done more good for more people in the last 235 years than central planning has done in millenia.

  37. My only issue is Tim O’Reilly saying “entertaining them with mind numbing TV shows”.    Why do we know him again?    Good entertainment can change the world.   And making people feel good (or feel period) is as valuable as selling them a product or service they like.

  38. I don’t know – I’ve always liked the idea of working on something that can “change the world” – in fact I just made a fairly decent career change to do something along those lines.  However, there are lots of other things I want to do as well:

    (1) Be a great father and husband
    (2) Give back
    (3) Do something I love
    (4) Be financially secure for the rest of my life
    (5) Work and play with people I respect and enjoy

    These are the top other 5 that come to mind.  Just “change the world” by itself is mind-blowingly complicated, stressful and highly unlikely, if you look at the odds.  Add the other five and I’m not sure how many people EVER have accomplished them all.  And if I change the world at the expense of these 5, is it worth it?  The answer for some would be yes, for some no.  I don’t think I have ever used (or would every use) changing the world as the reason to join me in an adventure.  I “get” the allure of it – I just think there are more holistic (and reasonable) outcomes we can still be proud to aspire to.  No matter how much we like to compare, there will never be another Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, etc. And I’m not sure Steve views Bill as somebody who changed the world, so even that result is subjective, is it not?

  39. Titojankowski says:

    Hey Chris,
    Good news! It’s not too late to switch to biotech!
    2 biotech hackerspaces have sprung up, where tons of software/electronics geeks are learning about biotech, hacking, and starting bio companies for the first time!

    BioCurious, San Francisco Bay Area: http://www.biocurious.org
    Genspace, NYC: http://www.genspace.org

    or play around with your own DNA xerox machine for $599
    http://openpcr.org

    Tito
    CoFounder, OpenPCR
    CoFounder, BioCurious

  40. Guest says:

    This is a really important point. If anything at all changes about the statistics you’ve supplied to pass one FDA study then results need to be submitted again. Not to mention, there is a tremendous amount of variation among living systems, so products need to withstand costly and difficult to run multi-factor analyses.   

  41. I think you’ve missed the point. 

    To make the world a better place with IT we need to cultivate a culture of innovation and shared effort.  This doesn’t mean that all software should be open source or that profit-earning corporations can’t protect their interests.  At the very least it means that we should refrain from celebrating the primary abusers of innovation. 

    As I wrote before, Apple requires that its users agree to give up the freedoms to investigate, modify, and share their software.  That they chase their competition with lawsuits is yet another egregious abuse of our industry.  There is certainly real good that can come from our collective work in IT, but on my view it will come only in spite of the Mr. Jobs of this world and definitely not because of them.

  42. Good points all, and very abmirable and noble intent. However, a lot of technology that appears to be helping people has unintended consequences later on down the line. All we can do is do what we love, and hope that it has unintended positive impact at some point.

  43. Hmm, interesting you only mention the two extremes. Ever heard of social market economy?

    Hmm, ok, then, separate SJ from the bankers and talk of the value they provide. What value are those bankers providing? Social would be to have rules, telling them to stop creating those financial products where they destroy real money and jobs with the virtual money they shift around.Can you throw some economics book titles at me? I’m interested in learning more. I see massive discrepancies between economists and the rest of the world.

  44. Often, bankers add little value at all. Many of them are what Andy Kessler would call “political entrepreneurs” who make their money at the behest of government giveaways or regulations. (There are certainly exceptions but they are rare.)

    As for reading, I’d recommend Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom, and Andy Kessler’s Eat People.

    Capitalism isn’t always pretty (creative destruction and all), and government has an important role in making companies tell the truth and keep their word, but it is unrivaled among the economic systems the world has seen.

  45. Chris, Graham,I’d argue that there are pockets of space in Cleantech that are
    anything but slow moving where there are low capital/high impact
    entrepreneurship opportunities. Solar
    is such a segment. It is
    an industry full of opportunities for software/internet entrepreneurs.

     

    First, just a little background about the solar industry. The
    revenue growth of the largest 7 public solar panel manufacturers (over the past
    5 years) has been greater than 80% per year.  Growing from a sum of $1.2B to
    $14.5B from 2006 to 2010. The number of homes (and businesses) installing solar
    in the US is
    about doubling each year. Another data point: Half of new energy capacity
    installed in the world in 2010 was renewable. Solar was one of the smallest and
    the fastest growing segment in that.

     

    And here is a Ray Kurzweil
    quote: 

    “Installed solar capacity
    has doubled every 2 years for the past 20 years. Yet solar constitutes less
    than 1% of all energy mix.  If it doubles another 8 times, it becomes 100% of all energy consumed today.” http://buswk.co/fxBLSs  

     

    I’d argue that there are quite
    a few low capital/high impact entrepreneurship opportunities in the solar
    space. 

     

    3 quick examples:

    1) CivicSolar – an
    ultra-efficient solar equipment distribution (and know-how) platform to connect
    vendors and solar installers. Profitable and growing very rapidly. (disclaimer:
    i am a co-founder) http://www.civicsolar.com/

    2) SolarNexus.com – a
    SalesForce.com / SAP like platform for solar installers. Rapidly growing.
    Funded by successful industry insiders including Jigar Shah. (discaimer: i am an investor).  http://www.solarnexus.com/

    3) 1BOG.org – One Block Off the
    Grid is like a groupon for buying solar systems as a community. The company is
    essentially in the business of doing lead-gen for communities who want to go
    solar using efficient viral marketing schemes. They essentially act as the
    marketing and sales arm of small to medium sized installers. Rapidly growing.
    Backed by NEA. (I wish I was an investor) http://1bog.org/

     

    When I started my first company
    (a social network) back in 2003, many people were skeptical about the
    opportunities in social networking, saying social networks would never make
    real money, etc. I feel like Solar is in a similar spot now. 

  46. TinyVox says:

    Actually it’s also important to colonize other worlds.  We aren’t creating a Galactic Empire without Facebook and Google and TinyVox to connect us.  So it’s about interstellar colonization, not just saving this world.  

  47. Ugghh… what the heck happened to my above comment’s formatting… it makes this great post look so fugly…  Chris – feel free to edit/delete and i will re-post.

  48. Yes!  Engineers, coders, and bio-statisticians possess great potential to change the world by partnering with co-founders in biotech, clean energy, life sciences, healthcare, and education.  Thanks for sharing your terrific story!

  49. Big Pharma is facing an “IP cliff” of expiring drug patents over the next three years.  The gvmt and hospitals are worried that no one is stepping in to manufacture the off-patent/generic drugs. Hospitals fear drug shortages, and are already experiencing some related to expired patents. FDA hurdles really focus on “GMP” Good Manufacturing Practices as a new manufacturer rather than the traditional efficacy hurdles of showing a drug is safe in the case of manufacturing off-patent/generics.  Maybe there is a market.

  50. Chris – Rich got you on this – Webkit is only ‘open sourced’ because it contains some GPL code – APPLE DIDNT MAKE WEBKIT, it’s based on Konquror – a GPL’d layout engine – thus apple was FORCED to open-source it!

    So there we have another example of A) Apple taking credit for something they didn’t do B) getting more credit for being ‘open’ and C) doing such a good job that even smart and informed people such as yourself are misled!

    I think Rich has a very fair point on Apple. Even the Mac (i.e. GUI UI), TT fonts, OO programming – and other things came from Xerox. Apple sold it.

    Hey – Jobs is an ace dude, but Apple gets way too much credit …

  51. Thank you, I will do some reading, then we talk again ;)

    Well, I read some reviews of Friedmans book and he is the guy Reagan and Thatcher followed to do their neo-liberal work in the 80ies.

    Many problems arise with his ideas, because they are not perfect. In short, he is totally missing the social aspect I’m telling you about. I will read it myself, but his opinions are not the ones I would follow blindly.

    You can see it in Britain, the youth is going nuts because the system is fundamentally damaged.

    Most importantly I think there shouldn’t be one extreme or the other. Capitalism or Communism. A path between is the best, taking the best from both worlds (and in case I repeat myself the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_market_economy in Germany is one possible way to do it, but politicians are going more Friedman in the last decade and it did not really help to make people happier).

    Furthermore, he compares luck to the GDP? Recently I read a lot about how flawed that metric is to identify wealth and satisfaction in a society.

    It needs a lot more discussion about the right system.

  52. What an awesome read. Inspirational.

    I was having a discussion with one of my friends on the similar topic.
    The goal of an Entrepreneur should be to create value. I am in IT, and
    have always been thinking of ways to create value either directly by
    contributing into a project and looking what goal has my work served and
    what problem has it solved, or thinking of ideas on “How IT could solve
    real life problems” like:

    1. Long lines in Hospitals and railway stations in many developing
    nations, (education and use of some S/W applications could solve that
    problem..) ..The problem comes in getting funding for such projects, convening local government/ county and the time it takes to do so.

  53. Great post Chris. I hear you – recently left partner track in consulting to go and try to make something that matters. (Well, matters MORE, anyway. Baby steps :) )

    I don’t think the idea behind Tim’s quote is specific to entrepreneurs — creating more value than you capture is [my] definition of success in a lot of ways

  54. Who doesn’t want to change the world! comes from the hierarchical needs (physiological, safety, love, esteem and self-actualization) of being human, or being an organization with any identity. If you are in position and have power to do good, why not? I believe we can always start with doing little good things for a wider community from early on in own (or organizational) career.

  55. Great post – thanks Chris. Apple seems to have the habit or polarizing a group! I, for one, am an Apple devotee. Its products are so intuitive and sexy. For people like me – who work in Social Media and more likely have communications backgrounds than tech – a smart, sophisticated tech product can make a world of difference. Technology can help people do their jobs better. 
    I work for Betterment.com, which uses technology to remove the barriers that prevent people from investing. Technology can have that impact – removing the unnecessary complications that people have placed on processes to open up opportunities for more people.
    – Johanna

  56. great post – there’s a lot more motivation working at a company that you know can make a difference in the world and and really doing something that matters

  57. I am going to sell sugar water (mobile games/apps) cause that’s my talent and that’s what I can do well and that’s what I obsess about. Will it change lives? Probably not. Gravitas is for a gifted few, is very difficult, and you can’t just decide to take it on. You need every ounce of your body, mind and soul to want it, desire it, lust after it, obsess about it, to make it happen. 99.9999% of the people of this world are not wired to do so. It is better that you find that thing that you can obsess about, that you can’t put down, that you can’t stop dreaming about, even if it is sugar water, because otherwise you’re just chasing someone else’s dream. And when the going gets tough, as it always does, you’ll run out of steam chasing someone else’s dream. Maybe someday, God willing, I will be obsessed about it. But right now, I’m going to make the crap out of that sugar water.

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