The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think – Edwin Schlossberg

Here are some notes from Stanfords Entrepreneurial podcast series with guest speaker Tim O’Reilly.


  • We should create more value than we capture.
  • Work on stuff that matters.
  • Idealism is the best form of marketing.
  • Do something that matters to you more than money.

Only invest in things that close the loop. i.e. Uber (cab company) makes it so when you hail a cab you get a text when he arrives, and you can see on the map how close the cab is to your location.

Create more value than you capture. When Jack Dorsey started square, he had a social mission in mind. He wanted to enable a class of small merchant, to enable anybody, to exchange money in a new way.

He was think hard about how do you make the economy work better? That’s a big interesting question! And one that we miss a lot. A lot of startups think how do I get funded, how do I get to an exit, and maybe you think I have an interesting problem. But Jack wanted to solve that problem whether it turned into a big business or not. He just thought it was really interesting to solve. That sense of trying to enable an economy is cool.

Les Miserables. A guy gets thrown in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. He becomes ruined by this. Becomes a criminal. He can’t get a job. He ends up stealing some candle sticks from a church, and the priest there instead of turning him into the police says, ‘I gave him those candle sticks.’ and so Jean VelleJean feels has an obligation to do good and becomes a business man, creates this wonderful business, and this is the line Tim loves so much:

‘He makes the entire region prosperous. There is no pocket so obscure that it didn’t have a little money in it. No dwelling so low that there wasn’t a little joy within it.

Father Madellan made his fortune but a singular thing and a simple man of business did not seem as though that was his chief care. He seemed to thinking much of others, and little of himself.

How many people can we say that about in business? There is something really wrong with that.

It’s this idea that came out of the 80s that the only obligation of a business is to make money for it’s shareholders. We’ve seen where that has taken us. A situation where the Wall Street banks think it’s OK perfectly legitimate to screw over the entire economy so long as it fattens their pockets. It is not OK. It’s the big lie of modern business. You have to create something of value.

We should create more value than we capture.

Les Miserable guy wanted to create something that helped the local economy. Wanted other people to success. Etzy, AirBrb, Kickstarter. They are important lessons. If you creating an ecosystem and value for other people your business will succeed.

If you can make other people successful. You can make the world a better place. That is a good thing.

Work on stuff that matters.

These are big ideas that tell a story. Idealism is not only good for you business, and not only good for your world, it is the best for marketing.

Idealism is the best form of marketing.

Tim sold a lot of books in the open source movement because of the story they told. They made communities and people feel good about themselves because of the work they were doing. They told a story of helping others and then helped their own business.

Web 2.0 brand was started to get people excited again about the computing business. A lot of people were out of work and this got tech going again.

Tim gave a talk in 2008 called ‘Why I love hackers’ at Emerging Technology Conference. Here he read a poem of Jacob wrestling with an Angel (a biblical story) and the poem is about how the wrestlers of the old testament would wrestle with the angles knowing they couldn’t when but feeling better for having done it. They got stronger.

‘What we fight with is so small.
When we win it makes us small.
What we want is to be defeated decisively by excessively greater beings.

People love to be challenged with idealism. They love to be challenged to work on stuff that matters.

Do something that matters to you more than money.

It’s a great way to succeed and even if you don’t succeed, the world will be in a better place. And that’s what you should think on as an entrepreneur. And you should work on things that are hard.