Weekend Reading: Raising Less, the Adjacent Possible, and Fire and Motion

August 15, 2020 • #

🧰 There Are More Uses For A Screwdriver Than You Can Calculate

Biologist Stuart Kauffman on biological functions and the “adjacent possible”:

The unexpected uses of features of organisms, or technologies, are precisely what happens in the evolution of the biosphere and econosphere, and the analog happens in cultural evolution with the uses of mores, cultural forms, regulations, traditions, in novel ways. In general, these possibles are novel functionalities, in an unbounded space of functionalities, and so are not mathematizable and derivable from a finite set of axioms.

🏃🏻‍♂️ Fire and Motion

A Joel Spolsky classic from 2002. Take advantage of the time you have when you’re independent, small, and lean. Don’t get hung up on grand strategic chess-piece moving, sitting still while you plan your Big Moves. A reminder to just keep pushing forward every day:

Fire and Motion, for small companies like mine, means two things. You have to have time on your side, and you have to move forward every day. Sooner or later you will win. All I managed to do yesterday is improve the color scheme in FogBugz just a little bit. That’s OK. It’s getting better all the time. Every day our software is better and better and we have more and more customers and that’s all that matters. Until we’re a company the size of Oracle, we don’t have to think about grand strategies. We just have to come in every morning and somehow, launch the editor.

💵 Raise Less Money

There was a Twitter discussion going on this week around this piece, wherein Aaron Harris makes the case for seed stage companies to raise just enough money to find product-market fit, and not be tempted to greatly extend runway for experimentation:

I realized that the conversation about raising always anchors back to the idea of adding “months of runway.” That always seemed appropriate to me because it was a measure of the amount of time a company had to stay alive. Staying alive seemed good since it increased the time a company had to find product market fit and to grow.

But I now realize that this is the wrong framing because simply staying alive is an inadequate goal for a company.  Founders start companies to find product market fit and grow. Venture capital is designed to speed growth, not to extend runway.