Here in Silicon Valley, we love “visionaries.” We admire people who “think different” and “invent the future.”
It’s a tough act to follow. And it’s not even true.
Everything I know, I learned from someone else.
Maybe I read about it on a blog, or in a book.
Maybe I learned it by working with someone.
Maybe I heard it from a speaker or a panel.
What I can tell you is that I can’t think of any knowledge that sprang full-blown from my mind without any antecedents, like Athena from the skull of Zeus.
I meet entrepreneurs who desperately chase uniqueness. Certainly part of this is the fault of us investors; we want people to tell us how they “differentiate” their startups from the competition. A famous formula for elevator pitches focuses on being “the first” or “the only”.
Originality is wonderful, but it is secondary to actually creating value, and tends to be appreciated only in hindsight.
I’d rather invest in someone who is awesome at learning from others, rather than someone who hides in a corner and spits out “unique” ideas.