The Silicon Valley method isn’t enough: A better way to build products
We’re starting a new company to help entrepreneurship get the job done.
The world is suffering from inequality and wasted potential. Many of our friends believe that entrepreneurship is a big part of the answer, but it’s clear that the Silicon Valley method just isn’t enough. There are too few people in too few places getting to work on far too few types of problems. Luckily, now’s a perfect time to make some improvements. That’s why we’re starting All Turtles, an AI startup studio, to make the next generation of products in a new way.
Once every decade or so, the tech world goes through a season of frantic reinvention when novel platforms enter the mainstream, placing previously intractable problems within reach. I started companies in each of the last three of these periods: the rise of the desktop internet in the mid-’90s, the big data movement at the turn of the century, and the explosion of mobile apps in 2008. Another reinvention, caused by the rapid advancement of practical AI, is happening right now. I wrote about it last year in A Charge of Bots, and I believe it now more than ever. We’re seeing a fundamentally simpler and more powerful way for people to interact with technology.
But each revolution is not just an opportunity to make different kinds of products — it’s also an opportunity to improve the way we build and organize for innovation. To address the shortcomings of the processes that got us this far. To make them fairer, more efficient, and better capable of producing meaningful products and good lives.
What are the inefficiencies of the current tech startup model of innovation? We think there are three:
1. Unchecked vanity and Silicon Valley math have entrenched the expectation that only ideas that might someday be worth ten billion dollars are worth starting. This is silly and almost never works. Very few people have a track record of predicting these decacorns early. And is the best way to score a mega-hit really to focus on that outcome up front? Countless great ideas might not individually be worth billions of dollars but have the strong potential to be profitable, delightful, and fill a real need. We want to change the primary filter for how we choose what problems to work on, asking not, “Could it be big enough?” but instead, “Could it be great enough?”
2. Outside of a few select communities, the ecosystems to fund and support startups are badly underdeveloped and sometimes even hostile. Despite good intentions, there are nearly impenetrable geographic and demographic barriers to startup opportunities. Consider these six attributes: If you’re a: (a)white or South Asian (b) male, © between the ages of 22 and 27, (d) with a computer science degree (e) from Stanford, and (f) you still live within 50 miles of Stanford, you have a pretty good shot of getting into the tech startup ecosystem. For each of those things that you aren’t, your odds decrease by a factor of two. Maybe a factor of ten! Of course, many companies that precisely fit these dimensions have deservedly flourished, but what about all of the other extraordinarily talented people who don’t get a chance to make their vision a reality? We believe that true brilliance is rare but evenly distributed throughout the world. We want the best people making the best products, no matter who or where they are.
3. Few visionaries are primarily motivated by making a company. Fewer still are good at it. Building companies is hard. It’s also not necessary, at least not right away. If a great painter wants to paint, he paints. He doesn’t need to start a painting startup. If a great writer wants to write, she writes. She doesn’t need to start a publisher. A filmmaker makes films, not film studios. So why do we assume that the first step of building a new tech product is to make a tech startup? This company-first mentality is an unquestioned part of the Silicon Valley myth, but it might, more than anything else, be responsible for limiting the number and kind of great products that are born in the world every year. Most startups fail for reasons that have nothing to do with the core product idea. This is both tragic and wasteful.
What if you didn’t have to make a company before you could make a product? We want to attract the world’s most brilliant product founders to All Turtles with the promise that they can focus 100% of their effort on their vision. That promise is:
We’re building an AI startup studio. Each of those three words means something.
AI is our theme. Our frontier. We want to build products that solve everyday problems in delightful ways. Products that can be built this year but would have been impossible just three years ago because the technology didn’t exist. With everyone at All Turtles focused on answering the big questions at the same frontier, we can all progress faster.
Startup is our core value. It means that the product ideas don’t come from inside. Some of the best AI teams of 2017 have joined All Turtles, and we’ll be looking for more founders soon. We want people who are in love with the problem they’re trying to solve, who know more about it than anyone else in the world, and who want to maximize the chances of realizing their vision.
Studio is our structure. We’re learning as many lessons as possible from an industry next door that’s going through its own golden age of innovation: Hollywood. Movies and TV shows are better than they’ve ever been, both in quality and strength of the model that produces them. We’re inspired by the modern generation of integrated content studios: HBO, Netflix, Amazon. They can swing for the fences with every new show because the feedback loops are tighter, making the process more repeatable. They attract the most talented creators by letting them focus on making the best content with as little distraction as possible. We want to do the same for product creators. Focus on making the product, and we’ll help with everything else: AI expertise, design, data, HR, marketing, IP, analytics, distribution.
We’ll help you make a great product first. Then, if you want, we’ll help you build a company.
We’re pleased and honored that, right from the start, ten amazing teams have chosen to join us. Eight are some of San Francisco’s most exciting practical-AI startups, and two are still secret projects!
We’re backed by a group of prestigious investors — including General Catalyst and Digital Garage — with decades of worldwide startup experience.
It’s an exciting time to set off on an adventure this ambitious and unusual, and we’re grateful to have such great companions for the trip! There are many more details to announce, including our San Francisco HQ, team members, investors, plans for global locations, and additional studio companies. Stay tuned for more. If you’re intrigued by what we’re up to, please get in touch.
– Phil Libin with Jessica Collier, Jon Cifuentes, Gabe Campodonico and the rest of the All Turtles team
This post was originally shared on LinkedIn. View the original post here.