Social+Capital

Just reread this Bloomberg Businessweek article about former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya’s socially minded venture capital fund Social+Capital:

Venture capital, properly deployed, can solve the biggest problems, filling a void left by the shrinking scientific ambitions of governments, foundations, and international organizations.

The venture capitalists Vinod Khosla and John Doerr, two of Palihapitiya’s idols, have for years been preaching the gospel of “social impact” investing, arguing that entrepreneurs and VCs have a vital role in the fight against global problems such as poverty, pollution, and disease.

Will be keeping an eye on Social+Capital backed startups. Some of those mentioned in the article are doing truly innovative work in the healthcare and education space. Won’t be long before we find out if they succeed.

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Why Do a Startup?

Been going through Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup class notes on Blake Masters’ blog.

Why do a startup:

You can’t develop new technology in existing entities. Anyone on a mission tends to want to go from 0 to 1. You can only do that if you’re surrounded by others who want to go from 0 to 1. That happens in startups, not huge companies or government.

Doing startups for the money is not a great idea. Perhaps doing startups to be remembered or become famous is a better motive. Perhaps not. A better motive still would be a desire to change the world.

Where to start:

The path from 0 to 1 might start with asking and answering three  questions. First, what is valuable? Second, what can I do? And third, what is nobody else doing?

The intellectual rephrasing of these questions is: What important truth do very few people agree with you on?

The business version is: What valuable company is nobody building?

You know you’re on the right track when your answer takes the following form: “Most people believe in X. But the truth is !X.”

I have reservations about how many startup founders are motivated by a desire to change the world, which leads me to the second point Peter Thiel brought up – so many tech startups are founded on ideas that have already been done. This is a problem that is especially prevalent in the Singapore startup scene. There is a dearth of original ideas from startup founders whose ambitions are orders of magnitude greater than a multi-million dollar exit. This is not a criticism of local tech entrepreneurs – everybody has to start somewhere, and the local tech scene is much better for all the people out there trying to build a tech company. I’m just saying that the world needs more Elon Musks – individuals who want to change the world, and are crazy enough to try.