Since I started teaching entrepreneurship, I’ve been trying to instill an iconoclastic attitude in founders. I really want to push them to think for themselves in their own context. But thinking isn’t enough. Looking at my most forward-thinking heroes, they actually changed how things are done. It seems to me it was their detached observation of how businesses are started that lead to asking,
"Seriously, what the fuck?"But what sets them apart from the wannabes, analysts and comedians is that they did something about it, they actually answered this question!
Is this where evolutions in entrepreneurship come from? Can Iconoclasm be taught in this way? Can we proceed faster by thinking the way they do, rather than mimicking their processes?
Michael Gerber - The boom-times of the 80’s had people chasing the “American Dream.” Be your own boss! If you build it, they will come! People were quitting their jobs and dumping their money into businesses that flopped. Seriously 80’s dudes, WTF. Michael helped founders by showing them that building a business is more than the product or service.
Alex Osterwalder - tackled the nebulous, business-speak term, “business model” that everyone seemed to use, but nobody seemed to understand. Seriously, WTF? Though just a PhD student, he brought clarity, tools, and a common language to the entire space.
Dave Fishwick - Like the rest of us, Dave noticed that the banks weren't working. A very serious WTF with serious consequences. So, unlike the rest of us, he gave himself 180 days to launch his own bank to learn first-hand what could be done to fix the problems.
John Mullins - If you remember the ride leading to the first dot-com boom, you probably remember a lot of silliness on a Serious WTF scale. John was interested in the ways entrepreneurs assess risk, and how they decide the right time to grow. John's investigations lead to the most thorough framework for quickly spotting failure in early-stage business.Steve Jobs - Steve is held up for his product know-how at Apple, but the story of NeXT exposes another aspect of his iconoclasm. Reeling from being fired at Apple (seriously wtf), this is what he told his new team at NeXT:
NeXT believes that complete openness inside our company gives us a competitive advantage over companies that do not trust their people with sensitive business information... We want to be a model for other companies in the 21st century.Dave Gray - looked at the grandiose presentation and reporting culture of the corporate world. Executive Summary:
Ricardo Semler - inherited a ship-building business from his father, and with it, the very heavy, authoritarian and hierarchical business culture of Brazil. At the age of 21, he took the helm, said, “WTF, Dad,” and proceeded to fire the senior management and democratise the entire organisation.
Clay Christensen - noticed that big companies, in spite of having all the money and being able to hire the smartest people, constantly got blind-sided by smaller companies. Seriously? (I don’t think he swears.) He engaged on an academically sound study of this in different industries and found patterns that form the bedrock of Disruptive Innovation theory.
Taiichi Ohno - challenged a proven fact in mass production: bigger batches and fewer products lead to more efficiency. This works in booming times but as the Japanese economy slowed post WWII, this made less sense for Toyota. Management insisted nonetheless. Seriously, WTF? Ohno recognised the waste in this approach, and sought efficiency that didn’t depend on massive growth. The Toyota Production System and Lean was born.
Eze Vidra - A lot of people think creating a high-density, high-quality startup community outside of the Valley is impossible. Eze's doing it, stacking 7 floors of startups on top of each other in East London.
Rob Fitzpatrick - Everyone talks about applying rapid prototyping methods to starting businesses. Rob lives it.
Jon Bradford - is tackling the 97% Problem so the accelerator model doesn't leave good founders behind.
I'm Salim Virani. These days I'm a Kernel Steward, and also having fun building random stuff.
In the past, I designed peer learning programs for Oxford, UCL, Techstars, Microsoft Ventures and The Royal Academy Of Engineering. I also played a role in creating the Lean Startup methodology, and the European startup ecosystem. You can read about this here.
I’m working on a communication tool for community groups and unconferences. It focuses on autonomising focused teams rather than top-down coordination.
I’m on the Kernel Stewards team, where we help ~2,000 fellows understand the what the development of blockchains mean to humanity on anthropological scales, and how to use them altruistically and prudently.
Getting retreats right for remote teams (2023)
What do you need right now? (2023)
Making sense of DAOs (2022)
An Agile starter pack for DAOs (2022)
Building ecosystems with grant programs (2021)
Safe spaces make for better learning (2021)
Choose happiness (2021)
Working 'Remote' after 10 years (2020)
Emotional Vocabulary (2020)
Project portfolios (2020)
Amperage - the inconvenient truth about energy for Africa's off-grid. (2018)
The history Of Lean Startup (2016)
Three Skinheads are running at me, and all I can think to say is, “Here Dan, hold my kebab for a sec.” (2016)
Get your loved ones off Facebook (2015)
Entrepreneurship is craft (2014)
Peter Thiel vs the science fiction masters (2013)