Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Go West, young man

Millions of bloggers generate way too much content to keep on top of it all. It has been awhile since I've checked out Paul Graham's essays. I first came across one of his essays years ago when he explains Why Nerds are Unpopular. If you were interested in academics in high school, and you haven't read this essay, stop now and go read it.

Another favorite Paul Graham essay of mine is his essay on Good and Bad Procrastination. He makes the point that there are an infinite number of things we can do. The trick is focusing on the things that are important. You have to procrastinate, just make sure to procrastinate the stuff which is not important.

This evening Janine put our fifteen month old foster care boy down and took the girls out for a trip to Borders. I was catching up on some blogs I hadn't read for awhile and read a recent Paul Graham essay.

Over a year ago Paul pointed out a consequence of Moore's Law. Moore's Law was an observation by Gordon Moore that the price and performance of computer chips was fairly steady, and dramatic. This led to minicomputers, and then PCs. When PCs first came out they were expensive and didn't do much. Now they are cheap and do a hundred times more work. Paul's point is that cheap computers means startups are much cheaper. My first job out of college was at a startup. We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for computers. Now people can afford to buy the hardware themselves and self fund their own startup.

The Future of Web Startups builds on this theme. Given that startups are cheaper, Paul explores some of the ramifications. One is there will lots more startups. If many can fund themselves, more and more will take a risk and try a new venture. And Paul sees a huge change in the Venture Capital business.

The 1800s was a century of huge changes. One of the most dramatic was the westward expansion across the continent. In 1800 the United States was bottled up along the Atlantic, by 1900 the continent had been crossed and tamed. In 1851 John Soule coined the phrase "Go West, young man." Horace Greeley popularized this. The youth of America were encouraged to take a risk and strike out on their own. For generations the ideal American had been the rugged individualist, a competent individual who took care of his own problems.

A dominant theme of the 1900s was the rise of large corporations. The economies of scale worked to draw people together.

Now the pendulum is swinging back the other way. If you have teenagers, children in college, or offfspring about to strike off on their own, encourage them to consider doing a startup. Great technology is now fairly cheap. It can be applied to all facets of business. There are plenty of new opportunities still waiting to be found. The time may never be better.

Technorati tags: opportunity, Paul Graham


Phil said...

Yes, one of the reasons we are homeschooling is to provide our kids with the kind of independent education that they will need to find success and happiness in this everchanging world.

Henry Cate said...

YES! I don't want my daughters to ever give into something they know is wrong or get talked out of doing something they know is right.

For the most part I think our daughters are learning the strength of will and determination that will help them find success and happiness.

Though once in awhile I wish they weren't so strong willed. :-)