On Friday night we won a Crunchie award – Silicon Valley’s version of the Oscars. We were voted the Startup “Most Likely to Make the World a Better Place.”
Standing next to these fantastic organizations made me wonder: Is it really possible for a startup like us to change the world?
The first thing you realize when you look into organizations like ours, however, is that it is never just a couple of smart entrepreneurs (or famous founders) that make these organizations what they are. I personally think founders are over-hyped in startups. There are always 4 or 5 or 10 or 20 people on these teams that work their hearts out, add a critical diversity of ideas, and make an organization like GoodGuide what it is.
As an example, another person recognized at the Crunchies was Paul Buchheit, one of the founders of FriendFeed. Paul formerly worked at Google. When most people think of Google, they think of Sergey and Larry. But Paul (and other early employees like him) were key to ideas like AdSense (how Google makes their money), their motto (“Do no evil”), and products like Gmail. GoodGuide would have almost no chance of improving the world without our entire team.
And then there are our advisors. GoodGuide benefits immensely from an advisory board that has helped us avoid big mistakes (that they themselves have lived through in past startups), and helped us learn from the mistakes we do make. We benefit from their science advice, their engineering advice, their business advice, and their commitment to doing good in the world.
Then, if a company is lucky, there are great investors. For us those are investors who believe that trying to solve big problems in the world can actually create huge opportunities. The best venture investors – especially in these unstable times – are those actually willing to act like venture investors and take risks and invest in something audacious. Paul Graham wrote an essay this year which makes the case for how the best companies often focus on ”doing good.” GoodGuide has been very fortunate to be supported by two firms, NEA and DFJ, that see the value in doing good.
And of course, behind every single one of these people are supportive family members – wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, children, parents – who support them through the late nights, weekends away, alpha launches, beta launches, re-launches, and just-one-more-time-and-it-should-work-launches, helping us believe in our mission and vision even on the days it seems out of reach.
And finally, there are the people who use what we have built – who try out our website, download our iPhone app, give us feedback and ideas for improvements, and inspire us to make GoodGuide better. If you are really lucky, these users become a community, taking what you have built, making it MUCH better, doing things with it you never even thought of, and then sharing it with their friends, and their friends, and their friends. And if you are truly blessed, this can become a movement of sorts.
And a movement… that can actually change the world.
So when you stop and think about this mythology of startups, and the almost-arrogance of believing a tiny team like ours can change the world, you realize very quickly that this is only possible if we are able to connect to a much bigger community and movement for change.
As Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
THANKS for helping us play a small role in making the world a better place.