Entrepreneurs and revolutionaries – Emprendedores News

We have evolved so that every society has a small number of revolutionaries who serve as a pressure relief valve, who see things differently, who ask uncomfortable questions, so that when things get really bad they serve to catalyze a hierarchy readjustment.

Reading about the Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit against Apple, I wondered: «How is it possible that Apple, like so many other large companies, is so good at suppressing competition? In business schools they don't teach you how to do that. “When companies get big and dominant, they get worse at many things, but they get very good at anti-competitive tactics.”(1).

I think I have a good answer to this question. Or at least a plausible one. But to get to the answer, let me start with Y Combinator.

YC's Paul Graham has a good essay about his experience advising entrepreneurs. He says they often ignore his advice and, over the years, he discovered why.

He says the reason is that entrepreneurship is counterintuitive. It's like skiing, where you need an instructor to do things that aren't natural, like leaning forward to stop, versus walking, where most people don't need a coach. He says that's why businesspeople don't listen to advice, because it goes against their intuition.

In his words:

«Startups are very counterintuitive. I don't really know why. Perhaps it is because knowledge about them has not yet permeated our culture. But whatever the reason, launching a startup is a task where you can't always trust your instincts.

In general, I agree with him. Knowing how to disrupt a large, dominant, incumbent company is not intuitive. To achieve this, you have to do many things that go against the grain, many of which Graham has written about.

On the other hand, do you know what is very intuitive? Know how to eliminate the competition when you are a large dominant operator. It seems like a natural fit: railroads, Microsoft, IBM, and now Apple. They run the same playbook. Group. Buy potential competitors when they are small. Take advantage of market share to pressure sellers and distributors. “You can buy this must have product only if you buy our other products”. “If you sell our competitor's product, you will have to pay us as if you bought ours”. (2)

In business schools, there is no course on “how to throw your weight around when you are the dominant player and eliminate the competition.” Instead, there are gazillions of courses on entrepreneurship. There is no Medium publication called “The Monopolist's Handbook,” but there is “The Entrepreneur's Handbook.” But everyone seems to know how to do the former, but not the latter.

As a biologist, it makes sense to me. If you had a population that was hardwired to maintain the power hierarchy, you would probably have an evolutionary competitive advantage over a population that was the opposite. That is, if everyone was good at disrupting the status quo and no one was good at maintaining it, you would end up having a very unstable society. That tells me that societies evolved so that people who have power instinctively know how to maintain it. And that the number of people who are good at keeping children will tend to be greater than the number of people who are the opposite.

Of course, this can and has led to many injustices, oppression and abuse, and I do not condone it. When you have a stable society that also values ​​or has a tradition of justice and rule of law, it is a good combination, but when you do not have the right set of values ​​and tradition, then it is a disaster. So a repressive but cohesive society is not going to be competitive from an evolutionary point of view.

My view is that we have evolved so that every society has a small number of revolutionaries who serve as a pressure relief valve, who see things differently, who ask uncomfortable questions, so that when things get really bad They serve to catalyze a realignment of the hierarchy. But there probably aren't too many people like that, because we'd end up in chaos.

Interestingly, we live in a time where having that gene, or hard-wiring, or mindset – or being taught that mindset – is very valuable in business because there is now a business revolution almost every generation.

In fact, to be a good businessman, you have to have that mentality.

A friend of mine once told me: «I studied neuroscience and women's studies in college. To be honest, women's studies has been much more valuable than neuroscience in my career as a VC.”. (3)

What she meant was that women's studies taught her to look beyond accepted social norms and thinking, and to question conventional wisdom.

In all societies there are accepted truths and taboos. Some exist to benefit society, like “you can't go around murdering people.” Others exist to benefit one segment of society over another, such as “Only adult men can eat meat” (seen in some tribes) or “A woman's place is in the home.”

Likewise, in business there is conventional wisdom, such as “no one will buy a smartphone without a physical keyboard.”

What does this mean? It means that:

  1. You should always try to find a mentor if you are doing a startup, because it will be very difficult to intuit your path. Almost all successful entrepreneurs had a mentor (e.g. Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker)
  2. Think differently. Ask yourself if conventional wisdom is still valid. Specifically, ask which party benefits from conventional wisdom and the current business structure (supply chain, profit sharing, pricing conventions, etc.) and how.
  3. Think like a headline. Think about how you would respond if you were the incumbent and had market power. Anticipate what the incumbent would do and do the unexpected.