The course of lectures "Startup". Peter Thiel. Stanford 2012. Lesson 11
In the spring of 2012, Peter Thiel , one of the founders of PayPal and the first investor in FaceBook, taught a Startup course at Stanford. Before starting, Thiel said: “If I do my job correctly, this will be the last subject that you will have to study.”
One of the students of the lecture recorded and posted the transcript . In this habratopika SemenOk2 translates the eleventh lesson. Editor of Astropilot .
Lesson 1: Challenging the Future
Lesson 2: Again, Like in 1999?
Lesson 3: Value Systems
Lesson 4: Last Step Advantage
Lesson 5: Mafia Mechanics
Lesson 6: Thiel Law
Lesson 7: Follow the Money
Lesson 8: Presenting an Idea (Pitch)
Lesson 9: Everything Is Ready, But Will They Come?
Session 10: After Web 2.0
Session 11: Secrets
Session 12: War and Peace
Session 13: You Are Not a Lottery Ticket
Session 14: Ecology as a Worldview
Session 15: Back to the Future
Session 16: Understanding Yourself
Session 17: Deep Thoughts
Session 18: Founder - Victim or God.
Occupation 19: Stagnation or Singularity?
The eleventh lecture tells about secrets. Are there more secrets in the world or not? To reveal the secret you found to everyone or not? There will be a little about physics, terrorists, fundamentalists, conspiracy theorists, geography and psychology.
Earlier, in the first lesson, we identified the most fundamental question that you must ask yourself constantly: what few important truths will you agree with? In a first approximation, the correct answer would be: "With a secret." Secrets are a little-known and special in nature truth. Therefore, if you get the right answer, then this is your secret.
How many secrets are there in the world? Remember that if we translate our question into business language, it will sound like this: what successful company has not been created by anyone yet? If you can give a lot of answers to this question, then this means that there are many successful companies that could be created. If there is no right answer to this question, perhaps creating a company is a bad idea. From this point of view, the question is “how many secrets are there in the world?” approximately corresponds to the question “how many new companies should be created?”.
When thinking about secrets, the key factor to consider is the answer to the question: how difficult is it to know the truth? Simple truth is well-known information. Most likely, everyone knows them. On the other hand, what is impossible to find is found. These are secrets, but not secrets. Take, for example, the theory of superstrings from a course in physics. You can’t even organize experiments to test this theory. The most significant aspect of this phenomenon is that no one can explain it. But is it really just very difficult? Or in this case, look for some explanation - is it a futile undertaking? This distinction is of great importance. Something intermediate, difficult, at least, is possible to explain. The impossible cannot be explained.
Research is the process of revealing secrets. Secrets are revealed, that is, secrets are removed from the secrets. It was difficult for Pythagoras to reveal the secret of the triangle. There were many Pythagorean mystical cults that gave the initiates new breathtaking knowledge, for example, knowledge of irrational numbers. But then this knowledge became generally known.
But things can happen differently. Well-known information may again become closed and become secrets. It often happens that people stop believing in what they or previous generations believed in the past.
There are small secrets that are formed by increments. There are very big secrets. Some secrets - for example, rumors - are simply not serious. And, of course, there are esoteric secrets, such as the secrets of Tarot cards and numerology. Frivolous and esoteric secrets mean little. And little secrets are of little importance. We must focus on secrets that mean something - big secrets that contain the truth.
The goal of this lesson is to reveal to you several secrets of creating companies and discuss them. Big secrets relate to monopolies and competition, exponential law, and the importance of distribution.
“Capitalism and competition are the antonyms.” This is the secret. This is a very important truth, but many people do not agree with it. Most people believe that companies are not much different from each other. They miss the big secrets of the monopolies because they do not look at them through the prism of human secrets, which determine the secrets of the monopolies. Monopolists claim that they are not monopolists (“Do not regulate our activities!”), And non-monopolists claim that they are monopolists (“We are so big and important!”). All this is just a demonstration of the desire to look the same on the surface.
The secret of exponential law acts in a similar way. On the one hand, this is a financial secret. The income of a start-up company is distributed unevenly - a consequence of the distribution in accordance with exponential law. But, on the other hand, this is a truly human secret. People are not comfortable talking about inequality, so they either ignore this topic or try to give a logical explanation for this situation. It is psychologically difficult for investors to admit that their best investments are worth more than all the other investments in their portfolio as a whole. Thus, they miss or hide this fact, and it becomes a secret.
The secret of distribution also has two sides. Distribution is much more important than they think. And that makes distribution a trade secret. But this is also a human secret, since people who have access to distribution do everything possible to hide information about how it happens. Sales specialists work more successfully when people do not know that they are dealing with them.
II. Next secret
Probably the biggest secret, more than the secrets regarding monopoly / competition, exponential law and distribution, is that there are still many important secrets. This was commonplace forty or fifty years ago. Everyone thought that there was still much to be worked on. But, generally speaking, we no longer believe in this. And that again became a secret.
Let us recall the original question again: What important truth are few to you? This would seem to be a simple question. So it is, until you try to answer it. And it turns out to be very difficult to answer. Moreover, when people really think about him a little, they often come to the conclusion that it is impossible to answer him. They start from one extreme, and then fall into the other.
But this is too big a step. Just because an answer cannot be easily found does not mean that the answer does not exist. Correct answers to this question exist. Secrets exist. And their disclosure is neither simple nor impossible, but simply difficult.
III. Arguments Against Secrets
The general point of view is that there are no secrets left at all. This is a plausible point of view. If it is not true, then this is not obvious. To give her an assessment, we first need to understand why people no longer believe in secrets.
A. “Anti-Secret” Extremism
An extreme representative of this universally recognized point of view is Ted Kaczynski, better known as the notorious Unabomber. He grew up as a child prodigy. The coefficient of his mental development was 167 points. One of Harvard's top students. Doctor of Mathematics, Michigan University of Technology. Professor of Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley. But after Kaczynski became disillusioned with science and technology, he began a personal bombing campaign. He killed 3 people and 23 more injured. Among his victims were owners of computer stores, graduate students of technical universities, genetics and others. In the end, in 1996 he was found and arrested.
However, at the end of 1995, the FBI did not even have real clues to establish who Unabomber was and where he was. Kaczynski wrote a manifesto and sent it to the media without indicating his name. The government has given permission to publish the manifesto, hoping this will help move the investigation out of place. And it worked: Kaczynski’s brother recognized the presentation style and informed the authorities about it.
But even more interesting than how Kaczynski was caught is the manifest itself. In terms of content, this is a long insane accusatory speech directed against technological progress. Her key argument was that human goals can be divided into three groups:
Goals that can be achieved with minimal effort;
Goals that can be achieved by making serious efforts; and
Goals that cannot be achieved.
It was a classic easy / hard / impossible trichotomy. Kaczynski claimed that people are depressed because everything that is left for them is either (1) easily attainable or (3) generally unattainable. What you can do, even a child can do. But what you cannot do, even Einstein cannot do. In a word, Kaczynski’s idea was to destroy modern technologies, get rid of all bureaucratic and technical processes, allow people to start all over again and give them the opportunity to work on solving difficult problems again. This, in his opinion, would bring great moral satisfaction.
A less disastrous option is the hipster phenomenon. The tough guys make a few ironic interlocking statements against technological progress, and that makes them even cooler. And it's okay that the gears and brakes on bicycles are actually very useful; hipsters do without them. This is something like a manifestation of stupidity on a larger scale. But many people in one form or another believe that there remains only an easily comprehensible truth or a truth that cannot be comprehended. It seems that they are trying not to believe in the existence of an elusive truth that can be grasped with the help of modern technology.
To a large extent, all fundamentalists reflect in the same way. Take, for example, religious fundamentalism. There are many simple truths that even children can comprehend. And at the same time there are divine miracles that cannot be explained. And between them lies a zone of complex truths - heresy. Environmental fundamentalism works the same way. The easy truth is that we must protect the environment. Everything that lies beyond this truth is best known by Mother Nature, and her actions are not in doubt. There is even a market version of this approach. Cost is set by the market. Even a child can learn the exchange rate. Prices are an easy truth. However, such a truth can only be accepted, but not questioned. The market knows much more than what you know.
B. Geography of secrets
Why did our society conclude that there were no hard-to-find secrets left? Probably, geography laid the foundation for this. There are no truly white spots left on Earth. If you grew up in the 18th century, then there were still many unexplored places. You could listen to fascinating stories about explorers and travels to distant lands, and if you wanted to, you would become a real explorer yourself. This was possible throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, when the National Geographic Society published stories of exotic unexplored places.
But nowadays you can no longer be a real researcher. Or at least right now it’s very difficult to research what remains unexplored. Everything that is possible has already been investigated. Maybe deep in the wilds of the Amazon there are still about 100 tribes with whom there were no contacts. Perhaps they can teach us something interesting. Or maybe not. In any case, most people don't really care.
The ocean remains unexplored, but in a rather peculiar way. 72% of our planet is covered by oceans. About 90% of the inhabited ocean is deep sea. People have been there for research purposes for only about 200 hours. Thus, the oceans remain the last major geographic feature where people have not really looked. But perhaps this is because our initial assumption is correct: there is nothing truly interesting there. Exploration of the deep seas simply lost the magic of discovering new lands and continents.
The frontier of knowledge seems to have erased along with the geographical frontier. People are extremely pessimistic about the existence of a new and interesting one. Can we fly to the moon? We have already done this. And to Mars? Many say that this is impossible. What about chemistry? Can we release oxygen? This became common knowledge in the 18th century. What about the discovery of new chemical elements? This seems like a futile exercise. The periodic table seems fairly settled. Probably, in this area it is already impossible to discover anything really new. The border has closed. There is nothing more to open.
C. Secrets in sociology
There are four primary reasons for the disbelief of people in the existence of secrets. The first is incrementalism, which is widespread in our society everywhere. It seems that people think it is right that changes should occur through inconsequential sequential steps. All the secrets we are interested in revealing are micro-secrets. Do not try to do anything difficult at school. Just do what is required of you, a little better than everyone else, and you will get the highest score. Such a tendency exists at all stages of education up to graduate school. Academicians are stimulated by the number of volumes, not the importance of the problem. The goal is to publish as many works as possible, each of which, at least in practice, is new only in some small additional knowledge.
The second reason: people are becoming less risk averse. Today, people are mostly afraid of secrets. They are afraid to make a mistake. Of course, it is believed that secrets contain reliable information. But in practice, the truth with respect to all secrets is that they have good chances to turn out to be false information. If your goal is never to make mistakes in your life, you should definitely never think about secrets. Thoughts that go beyond the thoughts of the majority will be dangerous for you. The prospect of devoting one's life to something that no one else believes in is unpleasant enough. It will be intolerable for you if you find yourself wrong.
The third reason is complacency. Today there really is no need to believe in the existence of secrets. Deans of law schools at Harvard and Yale make the same speeches every fall to first-year students: “You took place. You entered this elite faculty. Your unrest is over. ” Whether such complacency is justified or not (we should assume that it is not justifiable), but this is perhaps exactly what is true if you do not believe it. If you believe this, you may be in big trouble.
And, finally, some craving for egalitarianism takes us away from secrets. It is extremely difficult for us to believe that some people have significant abilities to penetrate the essence itself, while others do not. The prophets are out of fashion. Foresight of the future is seen as madness. In 1939, Einstein sent a letter to President Roosevelt, in which he urged him to take atomic energy and atomic weapons seriously. Roosevelt read the letter and took it seriously. Today, such a letter would most likely be lost somewhere in the White House post office. Anyone who opened the envelope would have thought it was a joke. In the late 1930s, it seemed that nuclear weapons were beyond the scope of what was possible. But then the ideas about the future were taken very seriously.
In defense of secrets, it should be said that all these reasons - incrementalism, risk aversion, complacency and egalitarianism - work quite well for most people. To distrust the prophets has become a good heuristic practice. 30 years ago, people created cults. And other people joined them. Someone argued that he had some significant secrets that others do not know about. The guru or authority of the cult was a model of anti-egalitarianism. People were encouraged to risk everything and join the cult, because it was the only way to the Truth. So complacency and incrementalism were ruled out. Today, most likely, it is impossible to create such a cult, which is good. People just won’t buy it.
IV. Arguments vs. Arguments vs. Secrets
So, there are arguments against secrets. But the arguments against these arguments are stronger. The problem of asserting that there are no more incomprehensible truths is that it is false. Secrets exist, and within reach. When you delve deeper into this topic, the assumption of a society without secrets will seem very strange to you.
At some level, any form of injustice implies secrets. Something is happening. Something unfair. This happens because society permits this to happen. Most people do not understand the injustice of this. In any case, only a small minority understands this. In the 50s and 60s, there were many different views on things that were extremely unfair. These secrets eventually became well-known information. Most were defeated. In other words, the lack of secrets today means, in a sense, that either our society is absolutely fair, or we should not try to make it that way. Or everything is correct in the form in which it is. Or if any injustice exists, then it belongs to the category of the incomprehensible and cannot be eliminated.
From an economic point of view, disbelief in the existence of secrets leads to the conclusion that markets are fully efficient. But we know that this is not so. We have been confronted with exceptional market inefficiencies for decades. In 2000, it could not be said that people who create and work in Internet companies behave somewhat irrationally. In 2007, it was impossible to declare the existence of a bubble in the real estate market. The market is impossible to understand. It can only be understood as understood by the Federal Reserve System. Based on their model, they concluded that under the worst-case scenario, more than $ 25 billion could not be lost. No one doubted the correctness of this model. And we all know how that turned out.
Political differences also require secrets. Any extreme criticism of government actions is necessarily based on some secret knowledge that everything is going completely wrong. Some of this secret knowledge probably contains reliable information. However, the other, most not. But, in general, disbelief in secrets is equivalent to the statement that no dissident can be right. And it ends in an interesting way. Since no one else believes in the existence of a secret truth, sometimes a political technique is used, which consists in trying to discredit the other side, associating it with conspiracy theorists. If you are a Democrat, you are outraged by the Tea Party activists and their secret beliefs. If you are a Republican, you talk about the members of Capture Wall Street and their wild theories. All conspiracy theories are insane and false. There are no secrets at all.
There is an interesting version of this phenomenon related to corporate governance. Let's take the drama of the last decade with the leadership of HP. The background is that HP survived the change of many executive directors. In 2004-2005, there was serious debate among the members of the HP Board of Directors about which issues the board should spend its time discussing. On one side of the debate were Tom Perkins, an engineer, honored veteran of HP, and vice chairman Kleiner Perkins. He believed that the board of directors should spend their time discussing new technologies and developments, that is, discussing difficult substantive problems. On the other side was Patricia Dunn, who argued that science and technology were too complicated, and that they are outside the competence of the board of directors. Dunn believed that the board should focus on processes and on whether everything is okay in the company's accounting? Did they comply with all ethical standards?
Against this background, a very dubious acquisition of Compaq is taking place. Someone from the board of directors began to transmit information to the press, which was a clear violation of the due process. Dunne tried to find the source of the leak. It was established wiretapping. But this caused serious trouble, as it turned out that listening was illegal. This was followed by a famous series of incredible events caused by this process. Violations were committed, the purpose of which was to identify persons who violated the rules of protocol behavior of members of the board of directors who did not want to do anything but focus on the process.
Tom Perkins believed in secrets. Difficult, but still solvable problems exist, and we must talk about them. But if you think that there are no secrets (that is, everything can either be reduced to simple processes, or it is impossible), you will come to about the same fiasco that happened with HP. It’s hard to work to radically improve the future if you don’t believe in secrets.
V. Arguments for secrets
Of course, arguments against arguments against something are not arguments for it. If secrets exist, there must be convincing arguments explaining the reasons for their existence. So why should we assume that secrets still exist?
That intractable problems are still solvable is evidence of secrets. It is not always possible to say right away whether a particular problem is only intractable or whether it is truly unsolvable. But those who solve difficult problems are people who believe in secrets. If you believe that something intractable exists, you must at the same time consider that you can resolve it. You will try to do this and, in the end, succeed. But if you think that this is impossible, then you will not even try to do it.
A good example here is Fermat's last theorem. It states that for any positive integer n having a value greater than two, the equation an + bn = cn does not have positive integer solutions for a, b, and c. Mathematician Andrew Wiles began working on a proof of this theorem in 1986. He managed to prove it in 1995. No one could succeed in solving this truly difficult task if he did not consider that it was possible. In other words, you cannot make significant progress unless you think that there is a decidable secret.
The story about web 2.0 technology and the information era is a story about how many small secrets at a certain level were able to unite and change the world. It's easy to laugh at Twitter. You are limited to 140 characters and numbers. None of the individual Twitter posts have special meaning. Most of them are probably just useless. But in total, this platform turned out to be quite influential. Social networks, as they say, played an important role in significant political transformations and even in government coups. The secret power behind the growing influence of web 2.0 technology is proof that there are more secrets than people think. If something appears that is significantly different from what exists in our extremely open world, then it simply means that it was previously hidden. In the part in which things are not visible, they are hidden. And all these little secrets are summed up and become something really very big.
A prime example is WikiLeaks. The line by Julian Assange argues that "New technology ... can give us practical ways to prevent or reduce the exchange of important information between authoritarian conspirators." Conspiracy in the broad sense implies the use of certain information, to which not everyone has access, but only a few people. A significant flaw in this technology is that as a result, public information has become more secrets than Assange would like. There are so many secrets that their content is not the only factor. Of greater importance is precisely the order in which they are revealed. Will the secret that deposes the government be revealed earlier than the secret that would destroy the one who reveals it?
VI. How to find secrets
A. Search Methodology
There is no direct formula that can be used to find secrets. However, there are certain reasons to suspect that there are many more. Problems appear even when you are simply trying to make a complete list of them. Firstly, this list will be largely incomplete. Not a single person knows all the secrets, since good secrets necessarily imply the presence of truly real problems. Secondly, the widespread dissemination of the list of secrets would change their character: secrets would cease to be secrets and become common knowledge as soon as people read about them and recognize them as true.
So you cannot make any exhaustive list. But what you can do is develop a good method or approach for finding secrets. We know that good secrets can be neither small, nor stupid, nor esoteric. Important secrets are big secrets that contain reliable information. Therefore, these are the first two criteria that should be built into your model. You can safely ignore everything small or false.
It is worth making a strict separation of the two different kinds of secrets. There are secrets of nature and human secrets. Secrets of nature relate to scientific knowledge and the world around us. The process of finding them involves leaving the premises and taking actions to ensure that the universe shares its secrets with us. Secrets about people are not like that. This is what they hide because they do not want others to know about it. Therefore, we must raise two specific questions: what secrets does nature not reveal to you? What secrets do people not reveal to you?
You can talk a lot on both issues. But the importance of human secrets is perhaps underestimated. It would probably be worthwhile to focus more on human secrets, as they themselves can be very important, and can also help us uncover the secrets of nature. What you are not told about can often give a clear idea of what you should focus your attention on.
At some level, the secrets of anticompetition, exponential law and distribution are the secrets of nature. But it is also the secrets that people hide. This is extremely important to remember. Imagine you are conducting an experiment in a laboratory. But every night someone else comes into the lab and messes up your results. You will not understand what happens if you limit your thoughts only to the natural nature of what is happening. It’s not enough to come up with an interesting experiment and try to do it. You must also consider the human factor. It is the intersection of the secrets of nature and human secrets that is the most interesting and informative.
However, a common prejudice is that secrets regarding nature are truly important. The secrets of nature are metaphysical. They relate to the fundamental nature of the universe. If you believe that these secrets are fundamental, you will come to the conclusion that physics is a fundamental science. Learning about nature is becoming the most important thing you can do. Therefore, it is well known that it is difficult to work with doctors of physical sciences: they know fundamental things and therefore consider that they know everything. It is unclear how many levels up this logic can rise without significant distortion. Does understanding of physics make you a major specialist in the field of family-marriage relations? Does a theoretical physicist know more about business in the field of gravitational forces, what are you? At PayPal, a doctor of physical sciences and a promising candidate for the position interrupted his interviewer when he did not say half the question, exclaiming: “Wait! I already know what you are going to ask! ” But he was mistaken. And he was not hired.
An alternative, under-explored route is secrets that affect people. These may be political secrets. Or it may be anthropological or psychological secrets. In this case, you can ask questions and see where it leads. What things are we allowed to talk about? Are there areas that people cannot look into? What is explicitly prohibited? What is potentially a forbidden place or taboo? The search for secrets in this way, at least in the beginning, is more promising than trying to uncover the secrets of nature. But secrets themselves are usually more dangerous. The secrets of nature are obviously hard to reveal, but, on the other hand, they are politically safe. In fact, nobody cares about superstring theory. In reality, our daily lives will not change if it turns out that this theory is true. Human secrets are different. A lot is at stake here.
Let's take the secrets of anti-competition again. If you do not already know them, there are two ways you can use to recognize them. The first way is human. You may ask: what can the people who run the company hide? This will make you think, and you will soon realize that monopolists must pretend that they are small companies, and that there is incredible competition in the market, while non-monopolists must pretend that they are large players with a permanent competitive advantage. The second route that you can take is Economic Route No. 1, where the fact that economic profit under conditions of perfect competition is reduced is a secret of nature. Any of these methods may work. But you will get the result much faster if you ask questions about people. The same is true for the secret of exponential law. You can start with a quantitative analysis, understand the distribution of initial profits and then proceed from the data. Or you can listen to what investors said, think about what they cannot say, and think about why they did not say it.
B. Search for practical secrets
Many risk-taker investors are looking for incremental improvements — small secrets, if any, to be called secrets. Founders Fund is more interested in finding great secrets. One way to start thinking about the big secrets is to think about the core areas of specialization that Stanford doesn't have. For example, physics is indeed the main subject of specialization in all existing universities. So now we will skip it. The opposite of physics can be nutrition. Stanford University does not do this. Existing universities will not provide you with the opportunity to specialize in nutritional issues.
This may mean that we found something. In fact, one company that the Founders Fund found particularly interesting is preparing something like the Manhattan Nutrition Project. Most of the leading scientists over the past two decades have been engaged in research in any field other than nutrition. Most major studies were conducted 30 or 40 years ago. There is currently no motivation to study nutrition. Therefore, the business plan was to attract the six best scientists in the field to the project and bring certainty to this problem. There is a lot of room for improvement: people know more about the universe than about the human body. But unlike the real Manhattan project, which received significant funding due to its obvious military focus, nutrition research remained chronically underfunded. From this point of view, researching food groups is a completely inappropriate choice. The pyramid, which tells us that you need to eat low-fat foods, eat a ridiculously small amount of cereals and consume carbohydrates, is more likely to be a lobbying product of Kelloggs, and not the result of scientific conclusions. And now we have an explosion of obesity. Proper nutrition is not at all a fruit that is easy to pick. But we had reason to think that the right people did not have an incentive to look at this problem seriously enough. that you need to eat low-fat foods, eat a ridiculously small amount of cereals and consume carbohydrates, it looks more like the lobbying product of Kelloggs, and not the result of scientific conclusions. And now we have an explosion of obesity. Proper nutrition is not at all a fruit that is easy to pick. But we had reason to think that the right people did not have an incentive to look at this problem seriously enough. that you need to eat low-fat foods, eat a ridiculously small amount of cereals and consume carbohydrates, it looks more like the lobbying product of Kelloggs, and not the result of scientific conclusions. And now we have an explosion of obesity. Proper nutrition is not at all a fruit that is easy to pick. But we had reason to think that the right people did not have an incentive to look at this problem seriously enough.
Another direction in the search for secrets leads to biotechnology. Stem cell and cancer research are two significant areas of biotechnological research. Many people work in each of these two promising areas. But despite such activity, they surprisingly overlap little. Stem cell research is very controversial and politicized: opponents of research generally consider them unscientific and solve political problems. Proponents of research fiercely argue with this and insist that stem cell research will unconditionally produce amazing results. The biggest problem with transplanting stem cells to people is that they begin to divide and multiply. You get something much like cancer. Neither side of the stem cell discussion wants to attach much importance to this. And this is strange. Maybe there is a variety of carcinogenic cells that behave like stem cells, and research at this intersection could be promising. Few have used this approach. The dominant view is that research and development are currently hindered by structure and politics. So this area can be a good place to find secrets.
Green technologies are also of interest. A very small number of companies and investors involved in green technologies work efficiently. The sociological truth regarding all investments in clean technology is that the latter are now in fashion. Humanity is concerned about the state of the environment. Investors and entrepreneurs are also people. Therefore, investors and entrepreneurs are embarking on clean technology in order to be able to make environmental claims. It is believed that a certain part of decisions to engage in clean technologies was due to the fallacy and complexity of the rationale for this business. But deliberately confusing the issue was necessary. You cannot say that you are doing x to look cool. Say you do something because it's cool Not cool in itself. Tough guys don't say they are cool.
So, what would you say if you recognized that all these environmentally friendly technologies are developing thanks to an unspoken desire to follow fashion? One possibility would be to completely abandon clean technology. But is it possible to profit from understanding the essence of the issue? Could you establish a company working in the field of environmentally friendly technologies, which would make maximum use of their dynamics and focus on the application for fashion? The answer will be positive. You could set up Tesla, that is, do what Elon Musk did.
From this perspective, Tesla is arguably the most successful green technology company in the United States. She creates the most elite sports cars with electric engines. There are many ways to come up with solutions for promoting luxury goods on the market. Elon's approach is to force rich people to support the research and development necessary to reduce the cost of electric cars and bring them to the market for mid-range goods and services. And the key to the decision was that he did not ignore the sociological truth, but used it as a starting point. In 2005, the creation of Tesla seemed crazy. It seemed that it was better to deal with solar panels. Seven years later, Tesla turned into a fantastic brand. But Solyndra is not. As we said earlier, you are creating a monopoly business if you can start with a brand and build a technology company on its basis.
Often taboos or restricted areas can shed light on macroeconomic secrets. An example is the US trade deficit. With a current rate of around 4% of GDP, it seems to be unacceptable. But somehow it’s not customary to talk about it. First of all, having a trade deficit is inconvenient for many people. If you believe in globalization, you should expect the trade balance to be positive. Instead, money flows upstream in the United States. If such a deficit is unacceptable, several consequences are possible. Either imports will have to decrease, or exports should increase. An increase in exports is more justified. Where do the United States have the greatest comparative advantage in exports? Perhaps in agriculture. Agricultural technology research is paradoxical for investors, investing in technological development, as agriculture is often moved away from modern technology as far as possible. But this is a good sign. It turns out that in the process of implementing our ideas, one can get promising developments in the field of agricultural technologies. Agricultural technology can turn out to be a valuable secret that you can miss if you don’t think about what people say (or don't say) about the economy.
Another example is alternative management. The main debate in the USA revolves around the issue of large government and small government, i.e. whether the government will do more with more resources or less with less. But both of these positions seem absolutely stalemate. No one talks about an alternative: do less with more and more with less.
Suppose that doing less with more features is not taken into account for a reason that is understandable. It does not make sense. But the option, when the government can do more with a smaller quantitative composition, is very promising. Greater productivity at lower costs, of course, is the definition of modern technology. Insufficient research of this sector is an ideological blank spot. People who are loyal to the authorities do not like when the authorities criticize: we can solve any problems if the government is bigger. Anti-government people cannot stand talking about strengthening the government: we must focus our efforts on getting rid of it. But despite the fact
The main problem here is to find what is difficult, but still possible to do. You need to find the border. But you just don’t accept the definition of boundaries that others give it. Existing priorities and lines of thinking do not have to be your own. Think about what is happening around and look for secrets. There are many of them everywhere. Just remember that not only nature hides them, but also the people who surround you.
VII. What to do with secrets
What should you do when you find a secret? The easiest answer is to patent it if you can. But what to do besides this?
A. Speak or not speak
The main dilemma is whether or not to tell others about your secret. If you don’t tell anyone about him, you will keep a secret. But no one will work with you. When you die, your secret will die with you.
Conversely, you can tell everyone about your secret. Perhaps you can convince someone that this secret is real and create a team. But then it will cease to be a secret. And more people will try to compete with you.
What kind of secrets you have can influence your decision, reveal them or keep them secret. If this is an intellectual secret, it probably won't be a big flaw if you share it with many. The same can be said about natural secrets, although to a lesser extent. But secrets about people are completely different. Their disclosure can be very expensive. On this occasion, Faust says to Wagner: The
few who penetrated the essence of things
and revealed the souls of tablets to all,
burned at the stake and crucified,
as you know, from the earliest days.
Human and political secrets are often very dangerous. Julian Assange will probably agree with this.
B. Secrets and startups
When creating a new company, the problem is to determine how many people and to whom it is to reveal their secret. This is largely due to a particular point in time. It is rare when the right moment to reveal a secret immediately in front of everyone is the very beginning of the creation of an enterprise. But on the other hand, you can’t keep a secret to yourself all the time. The question of the right timing is very complicated, but, probably, an intermediate solution will be the best. Much depends on how you imagine the rest of the ecosystem. If you think you have a great secret, but that others are about to reveal it, it’s worth the risk. You need to act as quickly as possible and tell your secret to everyone you consider necessary.
This is exactly what PayPal did in 1999. After several unsuccessful attempts to create models involving the transfer of money using handheld computers, the company's specialists realized that combining money and e-mail could be very promising. It seemed a really big secret. But, on the other hand, this secret did not look hard to reveal. Indeed, other specialists soon came to the same conclusions. Therefore, the PayPal team quickly declassified and widely disseminated this information. Of course, this was not without risk. Those with whom you share secrets, instead of joining forces with you, can become your competitors. In an interview with Peter Thiel in June 1999, one of the candidates for the manager’s position revealed a secret, saying that what he shouldn't have said: he wants to take Peter’s place. It was a dangerous political secret. Peter, as it turned out, loved his job and wanted to stay in his position. The interviewee was not hired. A few weeks later he tried to establish a rival enterprise.
The fraud issues PayPal faced were also a big secret. Fraud is inherent in financial and banking relations, but no one ever talks about it. Bankers do not like to go out in public and say: "Hundreds of millions of dollars are stolen from us every year, and we don’t know how to stop it." Therefore, they do not talk about it. Instead, they include these losses in budgets and reserve funds and try to keep things quiet.
C. Small and loud versus large and quiet
Today in Silicon Valley there is an opinion that most of the secrets are small. You may get a slight advantage, but very soon your findings will be copied. To succeed, you need to achieve super achievements, and as soon as possible. The idea is to quickly reveal your secret and make an exponential curve of your growth so that no one can keep up with you. But, of course, it is worth asking whether there are other companies whose development dynamics will be much slower. There are probably many cases where there is no need to reveal secrets right away. It makes sense to behave extremely restrained, use the secrets of production and unique experience and build a big business for several years.
It is hard to know how many companies do this. Many companies that try to act steadily or grow very quickly are visible to the naked eye. But most people who have been working on significant ideas for a long time will be inconspicuous. They do not release new advertisements every day. The more secret and the more likely that only you own it, the more time you have to develop it. There are many more people who are looking for great secrets than we think.
D. Understanding versus reality
Understanding the importance of secrets is important not only when creating companies. It is also important if you are going to work in an existing company. We know that, according to the secrets of exponential law, companies are not evenly distributed. The distribution is often two-tier: there are really great companies and there are many who do not work at all. But just understanding this is not enough. There is a big difference between understanding the secrets of the exponential law in theory and the ability to put them into practice.
Imagine that you are looking for work in a start-up company. You know that it’s very important to get into the right part of the distribution curve. You want to find a job in one of the leading companies. This may seem easy enough, as general information about the best companies can be found in the media and among representatives of the technical community. Start-up company A is considered to be much better than start-up company B, which, in turn, is much better than start-up company B. Thus, you will try to get into company A and stand in line for an interview in company B, which you leave as an alternate aerodrome, right?
Maybe. It works in a world in which an exponential law is respected, but in which there are no secrets. But in a world in which there are many secrets, the best companies must be hidden. The exponential law remains the same. But here it’s more difficult to navigate, because people can incorrectly identify the best companies. Your task in the hidden world is to find hidden companies with the best potential. What potentially successful companies do not usually notice? Do not take the apparent distribution from best to worst for granted. This is a fundamentalist point of view. Market, media, technology blogs - they all know better than you. You cannot find hidden start-up companies that need to succeed. Well then!
But this does not mean that you should apply for work in little-known companies. Esoteric truths are not at all what we need. But you must try to identify important truths. And they are often hidden.
We will end with a quote from Tolkien:
The road runs all forward,
Where does it call?
Which one is preparing the turn?
Which pattern advises?
Forward along a thousand roads.
Now, another step,
And I b - turn on the light
Yes, a little sleep.
You have a long journey ahead. The road intended for you actually never ends. But further, in The Lord of the Rings, there is an alternative version:
Or maybe there was a
passage or a cache around the corner ?
Let us wait around the corner
Tomorrow we will come here,
Find a path to the top,
On the Sun or on the Moon!
The road is not endless. It is possible that already around the corner a secret gate awaits you, behind which lies a secret road. Follow secret paths.
Note: Translated by SemenOk2 . Editor of Astropilot .