Stop thinking big and start thinking small

It’s fashionable these days to lament the fact that Silicon Valley doesn’t think big.  Instead, entrepreneurs are focused on building apps that will experience explosive growth and be sold for a billion dollars before ever having to discover a business model (sound familiar?).

I was at the 40th birthday party of one of my friends, a successful entrepreneur who’s been part of a healthy exit.  I sat at a table with a couple of friends, including someone who just finished building a $20 million revenue business, one of the founders of a company that has build breakthrough networking technology, and the CEO of a hugely buzzed-about company that raised a $25 million initial round of funding.

And at least half of the dinner conversation centered around trying to understand why companies like Snapchat were worth a billion dollars, while actual revolutionary hardcore technology was being ignored. (I pointed out that Snapchat made it safer to send pictures of your genitalia, but was met with some skepticism)

Finally, issued the following rant, which I’m sharing with you now:

“You have to stop thinking big and start thinking small.  It’s way too easy to get caught up in the hype that fills the Valley.  It’s all over the press.  It’s in every conversation.  So a few crazy ideas catch on and sell for a billion dollars.  Maybe some people get really, really lucky.  It doesn’t matter.

I get that it hurts.  It hurts to spend a decade of your life building real products and real businesses, and then get told that you’re out of touch, and just don’t get it.

It hurts to have to go begging for money and press, when the seemingly trivial dominates the airwaves, and younger, dumber entrepreneurs swagger about as if they were the second coming of Steve Jobs.

But it doesn’t matter.  You’re not responsible for Silicon Valley.  And if you try to be, you’ll go crazy.  Think small.  Find a market.  Develop customers.  Build a product.  Sell it for money.  Who cares if it’s sexy?

Think small and do what you think makes sense.  That’s where the big successes come from.”

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