The Runway Extends Beyond the Horizon

Once or twice a semester, I’m invited to speak to a group of students at one of the many universities in this area. Sometimes I’m asked to talk about a project like Kernest, sometimes I’m asked about web design / information architecture / etc. Tonight, I was asked to talk about my business – not the work. A refreshing distinction.

One of the most insightful questions asked by a student was: Why don’t I have more employees…why am I not focused on growing my business bigger and faster?

It comes down to question of horizon and longevity.

  • Give another listen to my conversation with David Crossland about the OpenFontLibrary, he talks about the OpenFontLibrary being a 10 year project.
  • Wal-mart is nearly 50 years old. It was 25 years old when I first stepped into one. Same for Target and Best Buy. My top-of-the-head calculations, it takes 20 years to build a retail business of any lasting significance.
  • People smarter at urban planning than myself have described public transit as a ‘100 year problem’.
  • The United States of America is only 234 years old.
  • The Japanese construction company Kongo Gumi Co., Ltd was liquidated in 2006 after 1,400 years in business.

Based on my lineage, I can count on another 4 decades – and with even modest advances in quality of life technologies – 2 more decades on top of that. That’s a lot of time to build and grow something to improve lots of people lives and persists beyond my direct involvement.



“Great achievements in knowledge are produced by older innovators today than they were a century ago.…This productivity drop is particularly acute if innovators raw ability is greatest when young.” – Age and Great Invention, Benjamin Jones [pdf]

“Everything you know me for I’ve done since I was 50.” – Doc Searls

“A point on the curve. I’m confident RSS wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t stuck with it. And I was 42 when I *started* work on RSS.” – Dave Winer

“A company with $200K per year revenue with a single person and no plans to “exit” would be a failure in [YCombinator], but a huge success for a single founder like me.” – Amber Shah

Stan Lee: 43
Jack Kirby: 44
Julia Child: 40