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.

garrickvanburen_goofysideproject

Elsewhere:

“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

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