The traffic was dominated by Facebook and Twitter. Early leads from usual suspects (Hacker News, Reddit) within hours became a rounding error. Social media was sending a torrent of traffic, reaching almost 50,000 a day in total. Mainstream press, while lending a lot of credibility to the material (thank you!), was relatively small source in comparison.
Many people in Silicon Valley inquired over the years why I was not coming back to Russia often (I visited once in two decades) or why I’m not spending much time helping Russian startups. I usually answered these questions in generalities while keeping my grim thoughts and predictions to myself. The events of the past few days, unfortunately, show that the worst predictions I feared all these years did come true. The nightmare scenario is now unfolding as we speak, and Russia position in the world is now altered forever.
Every year a few thousand startups are incubated in Silicon Valley. Few of them will succeed; the rest will decay or outright fail. Yet there always seems to be room for one more billion-dollar company. Besides appearing seemingly out of nowhere, the most radically successful startups are also the most unpredictable ones. What force seems to create these massive sources of wealth that initially look like “bad ideas” to everybody beside their founders?
You may be tempted to say “Black Swan,” and you would be correct; however, beside simple acceptance of extraordinarily rare random events, there is deeper mathematical influence over a process that constantly spawns new opportunities. Understanding that influence will help any startup founder or investor to improve his business insights. To understand these concepts better we will make a long journey that will touch upon very foundations of logic and mathematics .
In the classic book “Founders at Work” the founders of many high tech startups repeatedly return to the subject of failure and how they recovered from it. One of the popular conferences in San Francisco is FailCon. Failure is regular subject of panel discussions at high tech conferences. That may sound strange to an external observer. Isn’t Silicon Valley all about innovation and success stories? Why such fascination with failure?
In truth, the popular perception of the Valley as a magical conveyor belt that churns out billion dollar companies from startups is just a trivial case of survivor bias. The Valley creates thousands of failed startups that go away without notice during same time it creates a couple of Netscapes, Googles, and Facebooks. The latter get all the press and attention while the former disappear in the dark. This creates an illusion of an unbroken string of successes. If one looks at the actual time spent by entrepreneurs, as a distinctively different class of people than salaried employees of successful startups, they spend the most of their time and effort creating, enduring, and recovering from failure rather then creating success. Read more…