Two Paradigms for Careers and Entrepreneurship

By editor on February 20, 2018 — 3 mins read

The problem with that hyper-mercenary culture is all of a sudden you’ve completely divorced yourself of any sort of passion and a reason why you’d want to work at a company. The end result of that is that you’ll not do as good of a job, and you won’t make as much money.

When I went to Facebook, it was kind of a joke thing, that people didn’t totally understand. Most of my friends thought it was kind of comical that I would even go there, because I didn’t have to go there. But I believed in this idea, at the time, I described it as a White Pages for the world. And it just grew, and grew, and grew into something that had such massive impact.

And then the ramification, the end of it, was, to be very blunt, was just extraordinary wealth. But I think if I had tried to seek it out that’s not what would have happened. And I worry that a lot of people are just in the grind, you know, trying to jump into this thing, try to arbitrage, trying to make a little money…

I just don’t think, particularly in technology, it’s the goal, because there’s just such a vicious cycle. There’s just so much churn. It’s hard. Most of these things don’t work. If you come in motivated by the wrong things, you never achieve anything, and then you just end up jaded and disappointed.

I think unfortunately a lot of incubators are very problematic in that way because they just create a bunch of very jaded young folks who are just acquisition fodder.

That would be my advice: you have to take a step back and try something that’s defined in one of two paradigms.

One is, you yourself want it. Madly want it, need it. Travis, when were driving, I was on the phone with [Travis Kalanick]. He started it for himself. Zuck started Facebook for himself. Ev started Twitter for himself. Larry and Sergey started Google for themselves. So, that’s one category.

There’s this other category which is there’s this market-defined opportunity that’s screaming for a solution. But if you can’t basically jump into something because of those two things: you’re attracted by a market solution or you’re attracted by a product you want to use yourself, you’re just a scheme-scammy arbitraging fuck, and you’re just gonna get left behind. You’re gonna get found out by people like us, and you’re gonna get fired.

That’s raw, real advice. Don’t do it. You’ll make more money doing something you love, trying to have impact, than you will trying to make money. (4:05)

The prevailing wisdom, all of this blathering rhetoric about, oh, everything starts as a trivial thing… people laugh at trivial things. I get it, but I think that language is fraught with a lot of hindsight bias.

The reality is, I’m not sure if people are thinking about whether it’s trivial or not trivial. Again I go back to, someone built something for themselves that they needed.

That language is a very convenient way of trying to explain something that I think was much harder to explain and much more innate. I think you’re either gonna build something you really like, or you should go into this other category.

I transitioned myself from building something, and helping build something that I wanted for myself, to building something for the market. And the reason I did that was a very simple view that I had, which overpowered this. I felt like I had everything I needed. I didn’t need anything else. Nothing was really bothering me. Except this idea that the right people weren’t getting to the starting line. And what do I mean by that?

People die and of those people that died, one of those people could have been the next Steve Jobs. And when you unpack why are they dying, there’s many reasons that should have a reasonable explanation.

Or, people are undereducated or miseducated. You need a degree from blah-blah-blah university to get in the door at blah-blah-blah place. Why? And so now you’re locking and shutting people out. You’re not getting money to the people that you should get money to, that have the good ideas.

So, to me, those problems now dominated the way that I thought about what I wanted to do with my time. (30:40)

Posted in: Life

Editor's Note

These are Chamath Palihapitiya's words. They are probably some of the best thoughts on VC, business, and life, but were scattered around the Internet. They live now in this archive.