A Literacy of the Imagination

a deeper look at innovation through the lenses of media, technology, venture investment and hyperculture

Being Peter Thiel: Thoughts on Creation, Risk, Rapid Innovation, Future Investment & Entrepreneurialism -- Part 3

The following is the final piece in a three-part series.

Takeaways from Part 2:

- Funding ideas in their early stages requires a new kind of risk
- Elevated risk actually provides greater access to the edges, where innovation happens
- We must try to think in terms of "platform" – addressing & satisfying a real market need (preferably cultural)
- The onus is on people creating the ideas to develop sustainable business models


Now, with the independent ability to shoot, edit and program ("program" meaning write code and/or create our own content systems), we do have one indisputable luxury: We can rapidly prototype.

We can also create business models based on what we see evolving around these prototypes.

A prototype, quite simply, would be something that demonstrates functionality in the form of a platform; it could be a game pathway, an interactive film trailer, a mobile application, a search tool, or, even more crudely, a process or a methodology for building an audience and driving a market (to investors, preferably one that is patentable). In any case, the prototype ladders up to a larger, market need, and ideally, a solution-set that creates a new market in and of itself. You might even call it its own form of risk generation.

This isn't exactly something that they teach you in business school (or grade school, for that matter, where this kind of thinking could be applied during the formative years of a child's education). In fact, lab environments aside, most business school classes preach the risk aversion approach. But the good news is that even b-school programs are changing their tune, most likely due to the fact that people just aren't getting jobs once they graduate. So goes the plunge into entrepreneurialism.

Being Peter Thiel: Thoughts on Creation, Risk, Rapid Innovation, Future Investment & Entrepreneurialism -- Part 3

Like anything innovative, entrepreneurialism is a mindset. We may not like to accept it, but being an entrepreneur means that we must learn how to fail in order to learn how to succeed. As well, success is always fleeting… And relative. Being an entrepreneur, is, well, painful at times. The difference now versus a few years ago is that we can collectively shoulder that risk. We can also collectively share in the gains. A bigger sandbox means bigger pieces of the pie for each one of us.

Specifically, I'm talking about creating live symposiums where ideas are shared, where proof-of-concepts are developed and where business models are co-created to the extent that an investor can actually see what he or she is investing in, and where that investment might lead… And then actually invest.

This isn't even a new idea: Film markets have been doing this for decades, save for the fact that projects don't typically exhibit a platform approach or a mechanism by which a platform can engage and sustain audiences for the longer haul. That said, foundations like the Larry Page-backed X-Prize have been supporting and advancing innovations like this for years through corporate and private sponsorships, and true "co-opetitive" means.

Even still:

Why are these efforts largely conducted in isolation?
Why do we need to fight so hard for things like nanotechnology or medical research?
Why aren't we building programs to teach people how to action their entrepreneurial selves?
Why aren't we forging more co-ops and joint-ventures with major corporations and small businesses to revive "R&D"?
Why aren't we creating new market opportunities out of these alliances?

Again, this isn't a technology problem per se, this is a constitutional issue; "constitutions", as per John Seely Brown and John Hagel, which are edicts or contracts we put into place at every intersection of business and culture – such as one within an open source community – that often don't allow us the flexibility to innovate. And now to reinforce the larger point.

Being Peter Thiel: Thoughts on Creation, Risk, Rapid Innovation, Future Investment & Entrepreneurialism -- Part 3

Heartfelt apologies to Mr. Thiel, should he actually find the time to read these pieces — not for being direct about his partially flawed logic, but more for being sympathetic to his situation. I realize that sounds quite strange given the fact that he is stratospherically successful by most standards, but it's true: If he's having trouble, then we know something has to change in the venture game. Something has to change in how we leverage culture. Something has to change in the way we develop ideas and turn them into viable businesses and sustainable markets.

This, of course, isn't really about Peter Thiel — we are all about to become some form of his persona, whether we like it or not (and whether he likes it or not). The "Tao of Thiel" is literally about to spread like wildfire. But make no bones about it: Peter Thiel is a very smart man, and an inventive man at that. Just like all of those undiscovered entrepreneurs… You likely being one of them.

Being Peter Thiel: Thoughts on Creation, Risk, Rapid Innovation, Future Investment & Entrepreneurialism -- Part 3
It doesn't take an economist or a sophisticated venture capitalist to point out that big, sweeping changes are taking hold of the Western world. But the bigger proposition we must face, whether we work inside of corporations or not, is this: We have no choice but to be entrepreneurial.

So, take pen to paper, mouse to code and gather in physical spaces of any kind — we have lots to create. Our future depends on it. The beginning of our future, not the end of it, as Mr. Thiel asserts.