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Short tech history and the cult of company

short tech history adam townsend 80

Short tech history and the cult of company
There is something that I hear frequently that is at best aspirational and at worst delusional. The former can be tamed, the latter avoided. Those meetings are usually me trying to cipher which instance is at play.
Any variation on “I want to build (make, be, whatever) the next (industry giant)” is a big red flag.
Tech history is short and we have seen the rise and fall and rise of Apple. Workday has barbarians at its gates and those new entrants and the armies on the steppes will continue to challenge the leaders on its periphery.
History gives us complete examples that can be uncomfortably twisted to my purpose. So I refer to the legacies of the great conquerors and leaders, their strategy, analysis, tactics. And, just as important, the social skills they possessed that allowed them to move enormous mass of people to action.
The Peloponnesian war was well documented in the first military histories. It was a horrible war of attrition that took generations of suffering to resolve, and then stasis tore the winner apart and the war’s loser, which was Athens, won by benefitting from Sparta’s inability to rule. That war teaches us a valuable lesson. A war can be accidentally won, but preserving the winning condition requires administrative competency and a willingness to lead.
Alexander the Great is possibly the greatest military tactician. He executed amazingly on the plans and ambitions of his father. Unfortunately, he never built the loyal infrastructure and alliances needed to avoid civil strife and preserve his gains. Shortly after his death was a serious of enormous wars that unwound most of his global scheme.
Julius Caesar was a remarkable general at a remarkable time. After he died Rome and its territories returned to its previous condition of civil war. It was Augustus who forcefully took control and constructed the legal mechanisms, tax administration and all those things that would allow an empire to grow.
My point in that corrupted history is that many entrepreneurs are idealizing mythology and not appreciating the operational system that preserves, develops and administers. They have converted a cult of personality to a cult of company.
Build a great product or service, align the right people to do the right job, get product or service into the market, charge a premium and strive for outsized shareholder value, that’s enough for me. The rest is an unknown and the winds will move the boat

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