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Entrepreneurship is world-building.

A young entrepreneur asked me the other day what I thought the world looked like, in an economic sense.

The question threw me for a loop; typically, people will ask questions like “How much money can I raise for my venture?” (I shrug) or “How long will it take to grow my business?” (I shrug), or “Do you like my product?” (I shrug), or more pejoratively, “Who the hell are you?” (I cower).

But this question was a damn good one.

I paused, then sat on it for a few moments. I didn’t answer him. Instead, I asked about him and his business, and he shared lots of interesting ideas. The one that resonated with me was his conviction about changing the world in the way we see it. Indirectly, he was talking about context.

So I thought some more about what we discussed, and to his initial question, this is what I came back with.


So here’s the premise for the answer to his question (which is really just another open question): change happens whether we want it or not; (re)building the world is a whole other charge.

I shouldn’t have to explain everything in the graphic (at least I would hope), but suffice to say that it illustrates how we can build upon tensions between capitalistic norms and democratic norms. If you’re still confused on the differences between the two, I would suggest reading the likes of Chomsky, Fuller and Fukuyama, and study what’s happened in every election cycle since the 1930s, just for starters.

We tend to think of the world — the global brain, or the global machine, if you will — as this thing that exists through duopolies and false dichotomies. Basically, it’s a constant battle between good and evil, protein or carbs, money or happiness, democrats or republicans, civil reform or educational reform, fossil fuel or renewable energy, etc. etc.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to know which way is up; the news is often depressing as hell, and history repeats itself ad nauseum.

But few people, relatively speaking, are talking about everything else. All the stuff that we don’t know, and all the stuff that we don’t know that we don’t know.

So, back to the initial question.

Words like disruption and innovation don’t mean much when change happens anyway. Change is evolutionary. I’m not suggesting that disruptive innovations (a famous Clay Christensen concept) like Google and Airbnb aren’t game changers — they most certainly are. But in a world that now requires us to build differently, we need to think about how our creations and inventions are contextually fit and contextually sustainable.

And in that sense, entrepreneurship is world-building. It really, really is.

To that end, technology is an accelerant, while culture is a central proxy for success.

As for the young entrepreneur, it seems he’s got plenty to think about in terms of building and growing a business. And in that process, he’ll be answering his own question in a way I never could.