How would I get started?

Philippe Petit

Last night on Hacker News, someone asked a simple question with a complicated answer: “I want to build a cable company. How would I get started?”

I’m really disappointed in the universally pessimistic and generally unhelpful answers this question received. Some people pitched some interesting ideas and helpful analysis, but most of the replies reinforced the notion that Hacker News readers are predominantly male know-it-alls and on the average, a bunch of snarky dicks.

And yet Hacker News folk must be drawn at least somewhat by Paul Graham, who applauds frighteningly ambitious startup ideas.

I for one would love to see a site where all it does is break down what would actually be involved in trying to disrupt major industries. What a fascinating series that could be:

Obviously the chances are stacked against a newcomer to any entrenched market. However, why does everyone assume that the inquiring mind is an idiot?

Let’s use a simple example: Elon Musk.

Shame on any of you that wouldn’t see this question for what it is: an amazing opportunity for some very smart minds to brainstorm around a puzzle that everyone else considers unanswerable.

Philippe Petit

We owe it to ourselves to treat an interesting question with more respect. Patronizing replies that assume something frighteningly ambitious is impossible lowers the civility of our discourse and limits its value to something far below what we say we aspire to.

Remember: after Friendster, Orkut and MySpace… does anyone really want to find their friends on another social network?

“The popular image of the visionary is someone with a clear view of the future, but empirically it may be better to have a blurry one.”

Paul Graham

Images are of Philippe Petit’s 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center. If you haven’t seen Man on Wire, you really owe it to yourself to check it out.


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