Planting a flag in the sand

Over the last several weeks, an idea has crystallized in my mind—something I’ve known for a while, but just never put words to. Usually I keep these kind of things to myself but since it’s not something I can do by myself, this is an attempt to plant some seeds, solicit feedback, and hold myself accountable.

I have long known that I am not the stereotypical lone genius programmer (no matter how much I might delude myself into wishing that were the case). That’s not news. At best I see myself as a tenacious problem solver, a skill which up till now I’ve been able to employ gainfully in the art of coding. However, I am starting to wonder if being good with computers has become a crutch that’s preventing me from taking some bigger risks.

The fact is that I have these other hard-to-quantify, non-technical skills that I enjoy exercising. I know how to talk to both engineers and non-engineers (and translate between them). I actually enjoy meetings. I find that I frequently ask (what I think are) dumb, obvious questions (that no one else is asking, to my surprise), and watch them unlock a discussion. I like making order out of chaos, simplicity out of complexity. I love documenting standards and processes and systems in a way that makes it easier for the next person to absorb what I puzzled over. I like email and wikis and IRC. I really enjoy working with people. I get bored and distracted when I’m all by myself. I hate working from home. Collaboration tends to bring out the best in me—I’m amazed at what I’m able to accomplish when I’m working with others. I find it essential to know that someone depends on something I’m doing.

So here’s my idea, my realization: I want to start a company. But I can’t do it alone. No, more important than that: I don’t want to do it alone. My dream is to gather a small group of like-minded people with complementary skillsets and start a company together. I’m not looking for a big payday or expecting to change the world. I just want to work on something that makes me happy every day. I want to have control over quality. I want to have more freedom and flexibility over the types of things I work on. Heck, it could be something online or off. The “what” is almost immaterial, as long as I go home happy and look forward to working every day.

This, I think, is one of the first effects I’ve recognized to come out of the year I spent traveling. I’m no longer afraid of failure. In fact I find lately that I’m easily bored unless I’m taking a risk. Returning to San Francisco and buying a condo and assuming a mountain of debt was one exciting expression of that.

Ok, next…


Fortunately you have a fairly large wealth of talented folks to poll regarding this. Obviously this requires proper a discussion outside a blog comment format. Therefore, I think I may be speaking for many of your friends when I say- thanks for priming the pump. :)


Fantastic. Whatever you do, you’ll succeed!


Nicely said. I’ve long admired folks like you and people like the folks at for example, who are opinionated and are focused on making a great company to go to work to every day. (i.e. They’re concerned more about running a great company they love rather than creating a flash-in-the-pan start up focused solely on selling out.)

I too would love to create a business that’s not steeped in politics and egos or focused on just selling out or making a buck with cheap tricks. I’d love to be a part of something that makes people a little happier and fulfilled and does the same for everyone in the company. I envision creating a B-corporation: a business that can make a profit, but do it transparently and with a sense of social consciousness that exceeds typical corporations.

It’s not too much to ask. It just takes planting a seed and then lots of watering and weeding and harvesting.

I’m open.

Thanks for the feedback and your interest Robert. I had to look up B-corporation (or Benefit corporation) to make sure I knew what you were referring to. I’m kind of partial to how Matt Haughey described the virtues of a “lifestyle business“.


Thanks for the link to the interview of Matt Haughey, the “lifestyle business” approach is right on the money for me. I just want to create something useful and simple and apply my talents to running a nice low-drama business.

Also, I should’ve included a link to the main B-corporation site:

Can’t wait to see where this leads you :) Besides Matt Haughey, I highly recommend following—if you aren’t already—Marco Arment (Instapaper) and Maciej Ceglowski (Pinboard).

Jackson, I can’t wait to either. Not expecting anything to happen over night. I see this as a long term project with many possible outcomes. Right now all I have is a flag.

And thanks for the links. I end up reading a fair bit of Maciej through other people’s links (in fact I just read his Don’t Be A Free User the other day…). Marco seems maybe a little too close to the Daring Fireball side of the blogging spectrum for my tastes. But maybe I’m wrong.

Plant that flag! Happy to chat about this in email/offline.


No computers/programming for a week!! That would bound to stimulate something up!


“I find it essential to know that someone depends on something I’m doing” I call this being ‘externally-driven’ (versus ‘internally-driven”). I feel that someone, like a scientist, who works long hours seeking some esoteric goal looking for something that they internally sense is useful is just not me. I need the external request and then I’ll work myself to death to achieve a result to the requestor. That’s why I take a running course or go to weight watchers – it helps me focus and accomplish more than if I were left alone.

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