On Spreadsheets and How They Changed The World

Recently, an old Steven Levy article from November 1984 re-surfaced on the web. Its topic: the origins of the now-omnipresent spreadsheet. Levy recounts that a Harvard MBA named Dan Bricklin was inspired while doing a project for one of his finance classes. The project required modeling the financial implications of one company’s acquisition of another;…

Our Failed Age of Exploration

I’ve been reading Jon Gertner’s The Idea Factory lately; it documents the history of Bell Labs, an R&D facility shared by AT&T and Western Electric that was directly or indirectly responsible for a number of innovations in telecom. Bell Labs researchers created transistors, signal extenders, and Unix, among other things. They developed the foundations of…

Request for Startup: Forum

I love Twitter, but the public markets do not. Like other consumer tech companies, investors have valued Twitter based on two interlinked factors: user growth and ad sales. Seeing as Twitter added zero users last quarter, it’s easy to understand why investors are a bit irked; in fact, they were so irked that the firm’s price…

Will We Need Sociopaths in a World Without Crisis?

One of my most popular articles ever on Thought Distiller was called “Are Sociopaths Good for Society?” and I think the time has come to dig into another angle on the topic of sociopathy. Last time, I determined that sociopaths (at least the higher-functioning ones) are genuinely good for society. This time around, I’m thinking…

Speaking the Right Dialect of a Lingua Franca

I’ve always had a fascination with “lingua francas.” Simply put, a lingua franca is a common language that enables communication between people or groups whose native tongues differ. For example, if businesspeople from England, India, the UAE, and Brazil wanted to negotiate a deal, the lingua franca would most likely be English. Indeed, English is…

Climbing the Magic Mountains

It’s graduation season and I’ve been able to go see a number of high school and college graduations. The thing that immediately sticks out to me is that the majority of people who give speeches at graduations have very little to say that is meaningful. In my view, the point of graduation speeches is to…

On Team Leaders as Benevolent Dictators

I’ve recently been doing some thinking about what makes a good team in the context of work. To me, a good team (as I’ve previously discussed) is one that can operate efficiently and without bottlenecks. A good team is based on mutual credibility, loyalty, and trust. Each teammate has a discrete task and no work…

Venture Deals – Targeting Specific VC Firms

As someone interested in tech entrepreneurship and venture capital, I decided to start taking the free Venture Deals course offered by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson of Foundry Group in partnership with the Kauffman Fellows Academy and Techstars. The course is based on Feld and Mendelson’s book of the same name, widely considered one of the best…

A Year’s Worth of Reflections on Life and Work

I got to spend this past weekend at the Georgetown Class of 2017’s Commencement so that I could see a number of my good friends graduate. While there, I felt an echo of the same emotional whirlwind that gripped me during my own graduation one year ago. Leaving school is a confusing time. The path…

Rutger Bregman on Universal Basic Income

Today, instead of writing my own post, I’d like to share a talk by Rutger Bregman from TEDxMaastricht. Bregman is a 28-year-old historian and author who has published four books on history, economics, and philosophy. As an aside, I find it interesting how writing by “pop historians” like Bregman, Yuval Harari, and Nassim Taleb has…