Thursday, March 3, 2005

Invisible fool?

I started working in entrepreneurial ventures back in 2000 right after the so called tech-bubble burst. This was no tech-bubble; it was a financial bubble created by the financiers IMHO. Then they started wailing and screaming about their losses and told us how much it hurt them and how those crazy techies were the bad guys. Who started valuing simple database entries at 10, 20, 30 or 50 USD/entry because that was supposed to be the value of a customer? Who forgot that lines in databases are not real customers? IMHO again, some VCs should start at long last start being responsible adults: they made decisions and had to live through the consequences. That's just fine and fair!

Anyway, when I got involved in entrepreneurship, I thought it was a good time to do it because everything was going down and I hoped to have the opportunity to properly design products with my teams at a less frantic pace than that which characterized the late nineties, when everything was labeled "urgent". And because the European VC market was so weak, because I had this negative opinion about most VC firms, I went for bootstrapping. Eventually I failed in so far as the creation of a new business with a new set of products was concerned. Today I consider this to have been an excellent experience... Therefore I did not fail. Except for one thing.

In the days of bootstrapping, when resources were tight and there were so many "important" things to be accomplished by so few people, I started working day and night to tackle more matters. This meant that my quality of life went down the drain. And as a consequence, everything but work and a limited number of social occasions were simply suppressed from my calendar. But, with them I also suppressed the opportunities to meet friends and acquaintances I liked. The saying goes "out of sight, out of mind".

"Out of sight, out of mind"... It  occurred to me recently that in the early days of automatic translation systems based on artificial intelligence there was a Turing test machines had to pass to be considered reliable. It involved a translation from one language to another and then back to the first; if the resulting sentence was identical to the first sentence, then the system had passed that test. I recall that in one round of tests, the testing team started using idiomatic expressions, amongts which was "out of sight, out of mind" and the translation was from English to Russian and back. The result was quite funny: "you invisible fool"... So I guess that while I was working so hard at bootstrapping, leaving friends and acquaintances out of my busy life, I somehow became an invisible fool.

Never ever leave people out of the equation. It is never possible to know where a good idea or a solution will come from. It is not possible to predetermine in which setting a brilliant (or not so brilliant) idea will strike me...

I now know it is better to live my still very busy life in close connection with the people I enjoy, running interesting projects that make a real difference and having tons of fun with passionate commitment taking no shortcuts.

"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going" - Anonymous

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