What do most company founders dream that they’ll be doing in 27 years time? I’ll be 64… Will you still need me, will you still feed me?
I imagine most dream they’ll either be running their business in some fantabulously successful form, or having exited for some stupendously pocket-bulging amount of money and lying on a yacht in the sun somewhere.
Neither interest me.
Before my investors do a run on my company’s piggy bank, I’m not suggesting that I don’t want Wholi to be successful. Instead I really, really want to use what we’re building in 27 years time. I sincerely hope we (or someone else) has built it.
My team sometimes call me ‘Customer Zero’ at Wholi when we’re trying to design the product – and I make no apologies about focusing the company on building something I really want. Maybe CEO is just short form for CustomerzErO anyhow?! As Paul Graham states, the key to success is to ‘build something people want’. This isn’t an ego thing, but instead our hope is that if I want it, others will too. It’s how Google and Apple started and they’re doing OK.
People search has fascinated me for a long time. The reason is that all the best things I’ve experienced – from the boardroom to the bedroom – have happened as a result of meeting amazing people. I believe that when two of the ‘right’ extraordinary people find each other at the right time, the outcome can be a million times better than when two of the ‘wrong’ people find each other, when there’s a mismatch, or even then there’s a sub-optimal match. Think Larry and Sergei, Steve and Woz to use the companies above – examples of what can happen when two amazing people meet. Universities or communities are a useful proxy for bringing the right people together, but I believe it can be done oh so much better.
We’ve taken a few twists and turns along the people search journey and, no doubt we’ll have a few to come. Yet the essence remains true, which is that Wholi is focused on trying to enable the right people to find each other.
So what do I want, when I’m 64?
My dream is to be able connect the right people… lazily.
Said another way, I would like the people I know who have a problem or opportunity to feel totally comfortable and easily be able to ask me for help. Then I would like to be able to connect them with another person I know who would be able to help them. Preferably the best person possible to help them. And I’d like to be able to do this in seconds.
I’ve mentioned before that I don’t think LinkedIn can achieve this vision any more, even though that’s what they set out to achieve. Yet it’s founder Reid Hoffman is a role model for this mode of being. I read somewhere that he aims to sit at the intersection of networks, being helpful to people in order to get stuff done. I paraphrase from my memory as I’m writing this on a plane, so I hope this isn’t a total misquote or misattribution, but I believe he does this supremely well.
As for me, I’d like to be able to be somewhere far away – say Kenya (perhaps my favourite place) and yet be able to connect 10 people who should meet each day and create significant value by bringing them together. I want to do this in a short period of time, so that I can get on with doing more introductions, or do something else like kitesurfing (hopefully I’ll still be going aged 64). I don’t want technology that forces me to look at a screen for longer please! I don’t care too much if I get something out of these connections. Some people paint, some write music – for me this is a form of creativity that gets me out of bed each morning.
It’s not wholly altruistic, by knowing who to ask for help, I hope to also get things done, come across new exciting opportunities meet amazing people. It would be a reason to meet new people and to continue to network, rather than the vanity networks we have today.
Whether someone in need is looking for a new therapist, kiting buddy, or an entrepreneur has an idea for a company, or a friend needs help with a legal issue – to be able to direct them to the right person to help them would, for me, be wholly fulfilling.
Here’s to being needed (and fed) when I’m 64.
64 candles is more of a bonfire with a cake on the bottom…