(not really back to blogging, but had a spare moment and thought to blog after a long time).
I was reading up today how Dustin Moskovitz (Facebook co-founder, now Asana founder), Peter Thiel & Max Levchin of Paypal fame et al were lamenting at Techcrunch Disrupt how the startups in the valley don’t do enough to “change the world”. I found myself nodding as well as shaking my head.
Sure, we’ve got enough of people trying to solve photo sharing. Like films (Deep Impact, Armageddon) there seems to be trends that follow-on entrepreneurs pile on. Cloning and iteration do benefit the industry, but you also want folks to working on something new and innovative. Agreed with these gentlemen there.
At the same time it boggles my mind that these awesome entrepreneurs are pooh-poohing companies that start small. Facebook started out as a hot-or-not clone called Facemash. Mark Zuckerberg gave an interview in 2005 that there probably wouldn’t be much more to be done outside of college & university audiences. Peter & Max started Paypal with a relatively small concept of beaming money from a Palm Pilot to another.
I believe world changing companies and entrepreneurs start small by necessity. When you find traction, you scale both as the company and as the entrepreneur. Dustin, Peter and Max have scaled and so have their ambitions and their point of view. I’m sure they remember exactly where they come from and how they started small, but they see “wider” now. I don’t think they are dishing the best kind of advice though. Yes, you need a vision for a big company that at best times will change the world for better, but you absolutely need to start small. Unless you already co-founded Facebook, Paypal, Genentech, AdMob, Google, … and can afford to short circuit the process (of scaling yourself as an entrepreneur & resources for your company).
Start small. Scale when you can. Work towards a big vision.