My co-founders (David and Matt) and me are embarking on building a new company called Gigwalk. The experience got me thinking about why we start companies. I was going to write a long post about this but came across a Tim O’Reilly interview where he captures it perfectly while commenting on some of the TechCrunch50 companies “I don’t really care if they succeed or not, they are not really moving the ball forward in any meaningful way”
Ultimately life is too short to work on something where I could make a bit of money but really didn’t care for. If my only goal was to make money I would be working on Wall Street (as a few of college professors encouraged me to do so). Wall Street is a great place to make tons of money working on stuff that doesn’t matter much.
If you take a much longer perspective – say 100 years – companies that move the ball forward succeed in changing what people do and how they think. They change the course of history. Each of these companies dramatically changed billions of people’s lives over the past fifteen years.
- Microsoft and Google changed how people work.
- Facebook and Yahoo changed how people communicate.
- eBay and Amazon changed how people buy and sell things.
- LinkedIn is changing how people manage their career.
- PayPal changed how we pay for stuff.
As Tim says these companies clearly created more economic and social value than they captured – the founders and investors did pretty well along the way. I have no idea whether we will create a company on the same level as some of these — only lots of hard work and a bit of luck will determine that; yet this interview got me thinking on why we should start companies.