In this Mixergy interview titled “Blasphemy & Revelation,” David Heinemeier Hansson explains his distaste for the tech world’s “swing for the fences” approach to business and why he feels it’s important to speak up about it.
The problem with swinging for the fences
Some ideas are so large and such a big gamble that either they’re going to be a flop or they’re going to be an amazing success. It seems like the vast majority of the tech startup community is working on that side of the idea fence. But I think people should also work on low risk, practical ideas.
I don’t have a trader’s mentality: “We are huge one day. We are down. We are huge. We are down.” I’d rather just have nice, steady, predictable growth. I believe in the beauty of compound interest. We might not be growing 2000%, but if we can just keep our nice, solid growth for a couple of years, that’ll compound to have quite an impact.
The startup scene is too focused on “swing for the fences” type of ideas, either it’s going to go bust or it’s going to be this lavish, extreme success. I think we’d be better off with less of a focus on that and more of a focus on practical solutions to less grandiose problems.
The different kinds of risks
I think it’d be better if there was more “considered” risk taking. It’s not that you shouldn’t take any risks at all. Starting any company of any kind, even if you’re sure that it solves a problem for somebody, is going to be a risk. There’s a fair chance it won’t work.
But there are different kinds of risks. There’s the “1 in 10,000” or “1 in a 1,000,000 chance” of making something. And then there’s a “1 in 7 chance” or “1 in 14 chance.” I’m more in the “let’s take a 1 in 7 chance” rather than the “let’s take a 1 in 10,000 chance” category.
I get annoyed at the destruction of wealth, the creative inefficiencies. But it’s also deeper than that. It’s the corruption of youth. These “swing for the fences” kind of deals and companies have this intense spotlight on them. And it is brainwashing the next generation of starters to think that this is the way to go. That this is how you’re going to make it in startup land. And I think that’s absolutely horrible.
I don’t want the next generation of starters to think this sort of global approach is the only way they’re going to make it. I want them to see there are alternatives out there. That you can make it bootstrapped on your own. That you don’t have to rely on some sugar daddy giving you a big check.
The importance of being contrarian
I think it’s important that there are contrarian voices calling out things they see as unhealthy. I think the world would have been better off if the first dot-com bubble burst a couple of years earlier. The world would have been better off if the subprime bubble had burst earlier.
In all of these things, there are people who sit on perspectives or information or opinions that could, in however tiny a way, help sway public opinion. I certainly have no delusions of grandeur. A tweet on it is just a tiny drop in the ocean. But I also believe in compound impact. So enough tiny drops in the ocean and you can do something.
Note: Text above condensed and compiled from various answers. Watch the full interview below.