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The Founder's Forge

Chronicling the stories, struggles, and successes of early-stage founders
Podcast | June 2, 2022

Brian McCullough on the Stigma of Entrepreneurship

This week, Marcus and I have the incredible privilege of chatting with Brian McCullough, founder, author, and host of one of our favorite podcasts Techmeme Ride Home. We talk about what it’s like to be an entrepreneur, how there’s almost a stigma there, how the entire industry is in a shift, what it means to be a nerd and why it matters, and Brian shares his insight on whether or not now is a good time to start working on your own business, (spoiler alert: it is). Brian is one of the most knowledgeable people in the tech industry and his insights are vital to understanding the era we’re in and how we got here.

Owen Goode

June 2, 2022

Owen Goode:

All right, well, Brian, thanks so much for coming on. It’s a privilege to have you here.

Owen Goode:

Thank thank you for answering my tweet! I have like eight followers, but, To get us rolling here. We’re a show about, and for early-stage founders, but those, terms are a little subjective. So I’m curious how you define kind of a founder and early-stage all of that.

Brian McCullough:

Uh, a founder is anyone that’s crazy enough to be like,” you know what, this is a good idea, someone else is gonna do, and it might as well be me.” And every company that I’ve ever started, that’s the exact process. Even when I decided to write a book, that was the exact process. I could do this, so is there a reason why I can’t?

And I would say that early-stage can be anything from an idea to, you know, the prototype or whatever. If people come to me with just an idea, I’m probably not going to invest in it. The early stages, at least for the purposes of what I invest in, it’s something that probably doesn’t have product-market fit yet. Product market fit is sort of the Rubicon in my mind between this is an idea, this is a sort of a crazy thing that we’re doing, and okay, now let’s see where this can go.

Owen Goode:

That’s great. You obviously are a founder. You’ve been a founder forever. Now, an investor author, all that jazz. So give us kind of the short version of your story, your journey, how you got here.

Brian McCullough:

Uh, as short as I can make it, in 1999, I was a film major and I was writing my thesis, which was a screenplay called *Palo Alto* ’cause it was the .com bubble. And so I wanted to write a movie about kids going out to California to strike it rich in the .com bubble. In doing research on that, I heard about a startup at Harvard that was editing college application essays.

And I swear to God, “oh, I could do that.” And so like, you know, I went and got FrontPage, which was a sort of web authoring tool at the time, and put together a web page. And that became my first company. I did two more in the early two-thousands, when social media started to happen, I thought that social was great for jobs and employment and things like that. And, uh, I, did not start LinkedIn, but I did start one of those at least around the same month that LinkedIn started. And then beyond that, it’s just been blogging, and I wrote a book, and now I’ve got a podcasting company, and now I’ve got a fund. And so, yeah, it’s, it’s just 20 years of doing something that I did not go to college for.

Marcus Smith:

Well, so, and I don’t know if he actually said, what’s your day job?

Owen Goode:

What would you define your day job as?

Brian McCullough:

Oh, that’s true. No, a hundred percent, my day job is the *Techmeme Ride Home* podcast because it’s a daily, 15 to 20-minute, tech news podcast that, requires me to do it every day. Uh, so that is the definition of a day job. It’s funny, I haven’t taken a real vacation in four years now. The show’s four years old and I’ve been trying to plot that out for later in the summer and we’ll see if we can actually do it. But, um, that is the day job. That’s what pays the bills.

It’s a flywheel sort of thing like, everything that I do feeds into everything else. Like I wouldn’t have done the podcast if I hadn’t written the book. Writing the book gives me the credibility to do various podcasts. The podcast gives me the access to do the early-stage fund. Everything feeds into everything else essentially.

Marcus Smith:

That’s exactly right.

And that’s a conversation I have with a lot of founders, which is the, if you’re in this for the long game, if you want to be an entrepreneur because you like entrepreneurship, then all the things that you’ve done before, even if they fail or you decide you’re done with them, will feed it into whatever you do next. And that’s an important piece for the serially entrepreneur-minded person.

Brian McCullough:

I’ve been fortunate in the fact that the first company I started in college, I still own. And it still throws off a reasonable amount of cash every year. So when I say that I’ve been a four-time founder, there are about three or four other things that you’ve never heard of because I was able to try them out and they didn’t work. And so I guess the true sort of like a born entrepreneur is someone that always has ideas and a good entrepreneur is one that knows which ideas to never even try. And a great entrepreneur is one that succeeds, even when it was an idea that should have failed, you know what I mean? So like, there’s, there’s a whole gradient.

Owen Goode:

Shut it down. We’re done.

Marcus Smith:

Well, so, no, actually that’s really good though, because that kind of transitions into the credibility thing of, hey, you’ve done the entrepreneurship thing, you now report on tech and entrepreneurship. And you’ve been very involved in seeing kind of this evolution of especially tech entrepreneurship over the last 20 years. So, one of the things we wanted to talk about on this show was the public perspective of entrepreneurship.

I remember my first view of the entrepreneurship thing, besides, you know, hearing about these cool people who had built awesome companies and, you know, the computer on my desk was because of this guy, was *Pirates of Silicon Valley*, which was I think actually end of nineties film

Brian McCullough:

Yeah! Wasn’t it? It was the late nineties, right? Cause, uh, Noah Wylie of ER was in it when he was still on ER, I think.

Marcus Smith:

Yeah, And so they were talking about, yeah, what was that kind of journey? An obviously dramatized documentary of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. And that was kind of formative in my understanding of like, what does it look like to build a business? And what does that world look like? And I think even to that point, it positioned the way I saw entrepreneurship to some degree moving into the world of tech that we do now.

So I don’t know if you want to comment on some of that early media and go from there.

Brian McCullough:

A point that I’ve made many times, and I made this in the book, is that when I was growing up, people wanted to be rockstars. People wanted to be traders on wall street. People wanted to be sports heroes and things like that. There wasn’t this sort of cultural image of being an entrepreneur as a rockstar thing. Now, I mean, there are things like the Henry Ford story and Thomas Edison being the Elon Musk of his day.

That existed, but, to put my history hat on that I’ve also said before, when rock and roll started in the mid-fifties it wasn’t until the late sixties that people were like, “Hey, we should be writing some of this down. We should be telling the stories of how this happened.” It took a good 15 years for the hagiography, for the history, for the sort of image building of what the last 25 years of especially tech entrepreneurship have been.

You’re right to, to, to claim that one as, as an early one, the *Pirates of Silicon Valley*, because there wasn’t a lot of, there were books. There weren’t a lot of movies. God knows, there was no way in the late nineties you would’ve been able to sell a movie about a kid starting a company at Harvard. And it didn’t help that then the .com bubble blew up and et cetera, et cetera.

So I feel like that what happened is there was a good decade lag before people realized, the people that make the images, the people in Hollywood, the people that you know, by books and things like that, didn’t realize that there was a whole generation of younger folk that were coming up that were idolizing the Steve Jobs, the Bill Gates and eventually the Mark Zuckerbergs and, on and on and on.

They didn’t realize that they were the new cultural rockstars and there’s good and bad to that because, you know, rockstars or rockstars because they kind of behave badly and burn out whenever. But meanwhile, like being a, an entrepreneur and a business person and an inventor and things like that, you, you think is a more sober pursuit. It is interesting how that has sort of evolved where it was not a thing. Like entrepreneurs were not rock stars. Then they’ve become these rock stars. And then now I guess we’re sort of halfway in the backlash of it a little bit maybe.

Owen Goode:

Where in that cycle do you put us? Cause most of the popular depictions coming out, like The Dropout, Super Pumped, and even Silicon Valley are not incredibly rosy pictures.

Brian McCullough:

But that’s healthier. That’s healthier. Think about it. There are certain people that would say, “well, it’s not giving enough justice to like the earnest attempt to change the world and the earnest attempt to do good things and things like that.” But then at the same time, who wants to see a movie about a rockstar that doesn’t involve drugs and crazy sex and bacchanalia?

The fact that all of the movies that have come out recently have been about Theranos, Uber, all sorts of things that are sort of sexier stories. There’s a difference between how Hollywood is depicting it versus some of the criticism that people have about how journalists depict entrepreneurialism.

Marcus Smith:

What is that difference? And is that healthy? Is that good? Are we presenting something in a way that kids of tomorrow are going to want to go do something or not want to go do something because of what they saw on TV? Like, what does that look like?

Brian McCullough:

There’s nothing about a business that is easy and pretty. Right? It’s all dirty messiness. And anyone that’s ever started a company, especially successful companies, knows that half the time you think you’re on the edge of failure because you are on the edge of failure. And you’re making stupid decisions and everything’s about to blow up in your face.

Hollywood is going to do stories about the really sexy stuff. And the sexy stuff is ugly and messy and blah, blah, blah. But then at the same time the journalism side of it, like, imagine if all journalists did was talk about every politician and how great they were and did puff pieces. It would be propaganda.

I do think, and there are certain people that have this opinion, I’m friends with them, I respect them, and I love them, they think that all of the journalism coverage of entrepreneur-ism and tech is too negative. It’s all with an immediate knee jerk bent to knock things down. And I think that that is overblown by far. It is healthy for tech, for the economy, for the country, for there to be not skeptical, but critical.

Skeptical is like, “is this a good company?” But critical is like, “prove to me that this is a good company. Prove to me that this is a good idea.” I think that’s healthy. Skeptical seems like it would be nicer, but critical means, I want you to prove it to me. And if you prove it fine, that’s different than skepticism, which is a knee-jerk thing. Critical can be proven. Critical can be won over, but critical is also important.

Owen Goode:

Right.

Marcus Smith:

Do you think that there is a different air of skepticism, criticism between journalism, between other entrepreneurial ecosystems, and then especially Silicon valley as it were, and the mentality it’s taken towards entrepreneurship? I know we’ve looked at a lot of these different companies recently it’s like, how did we not see that that was a bad idea or not, not even that, that was a bad idea, but like that wasn’t going well?

Brian McCullough:

To take the Silicon Valley side of this, lots of us knew they were bad ideas. I mean, God knows I was doing the podcast when WeWork was blowing up. And I think I was doing the podcast right before Travis got kicked out of Uber. There are strong arguments to be skeptical of Uber to this day, you know? Lots of people knew they were bad ideas. And so that’s why it feels weird to me when people are like, ” how dare you, uh, question this?” if I was an investor in an Uber or a WeWork, I would want that.

This is the other thing, half of especially tech and business media is unbelievably obsequious. You get on the cover of Forbes, the cover of Fortune, they’re not going to trash you nine times out of 10. So if you can’t take a little bit of scrutiny, as an investor, then I’m wondering what I’ve invested in.

And you can see this now in crypto. I think crypto is better than Silicon Valley is generally in terms of not being defensive when people are like, the emperor has no clothes here. Because I think crypto people are willing to like, prove it. They’re, they’re up to that challenge. And so, like, I feel like there are certain people in Silicon Valley that have thinner skins than all you crazy crypto kids.

Owen Goode:

I think you make a great case for that being this almost an innovator’s dilemma thing. Like if it becomes too self-reinforcing to become an entrepreneur or you’re going to succeed, then that leads to failure, whereas, if you’re a kid looking at all this going, “you know what, this looks really hard, but I can still do it better” than you’re set up pretty well.

Brian McCullough:

Never forget how recent this is. When I’m talking about how people my age, I’m 44, I didn’t grow up with entrepreneurs as a role models to aspire to be like. It wasn’t until the Zuckerbergs, the Jack Dorseys, and the Elon Musks took over the world that that became a proven thing. So that’s, what? A decade? That’s only a decade.

So what you also have to keep in mind is certain people in power in Silicon Valley, certain people that have made successful companies, certain people that are VCs, and things like that, they still feel like they’re the underdogs. And that’s the other thing that I really always want to just take a baseball bat and put in people’s heads is, you’re not the underdogs anymore. And so it’s natural that people are skeptical and critical of you. Because the reason people still feel like they’re underdogs is that it hasn’t been that long that they’ve been the overdogs. And they need to get that in their heads.

Owen Goode:

No, I think that’s an excellent, excellent point. I kind of have a slightly different tack here, more on the public perception side. Streaming is struggling in the public markets right now, at least at the end of April here. And I am curious if there’s any kind of self-fulfilling prophecy there. Since the streaming services that are taking all these hits are also the ones creating content that from a public perception is a bit more negative That’s probably contrived, but I thought it was kind of fun to think about.

Brian McCullough:

That’s an interesting thing. Listen, I have said to many people that one of the things that you can get rich off of is entrepreneur porn. For all the skepticism that I’ve said about people have to realize that they’re the overdogs now, at the same time, it’s only good for society that the rock stars now are entrepreneurs because it’s an infinite resource, but it’s an infinite resource that doesn’t exist if it’s not seated.

If we are at a stage where the world has lots of problems that need to be solved, and there’s an entire generation of folks that have been brought up to believe that the way to change the world is to create a company that solves a problem, that’s how we’re going to save the world. So.

Marcus Smith:

That’s the whole concept of innovation being an infinite timeline is like, don’t be mad that someone else did this innovation you thought of, they probably created five more innovations that need to be done. If you care about innovating and don’t care about a specific problem, there will always be stuff to do. And that’s what entrepreneurship is. Right?

To your point about like entrepreneurship porn and whatnot, there have been many times when all the nerds out there are like, “man, how did nerdom become so mainstream?” And my answer is always, “who are the people who were making the money that pay for this stuff to happen?” Well, now it’s tech, right? And so in the same way, like you are the people that are, you know, would be paying for this content? If they’re the entrepreneurs, they’re going to be, you know, wanting to see that stuff.

Brian McCullough:

And it’s cyclical too. If there’s anyone out there listening that feels like I missed it or whatever, in the nineties, there were people that just were like, “Hey, this is cool. I like computers. I want to do this.” And some of them made great companies. And then all the pretty people came in. There’s a difference between someone that’s an entrepreneur because they’re really into something. The real definition of a nerd is, “I’m just into this.” it can be I’m into maps, I’m into gardening, I’m into whatever, I’m just insanely into this. So that’s a nerd.

I’ve seen two cycles now of, at the beginning when things are just kicking off, it’s the true nerds that are just like, “I’m into this, so I’m making this, even if you don’t pay me, I’m going to do this.” and then people have success, and then the pretty people come in, and then you get a lot of people, and we’re in a time like this right now, where you get a lot of people that start companies because they want to start companies. Do you know what I mean?

And like, it’s almost like it doesn’t matter what it is like. There is no motivation for them other than to start a company. Now, the greatest person that’s like,” I’m going to succeed no matter what,” whether they’re a basketball player, whether they’re a stockbroker, whether they started a company or whatever, they’re probably going to succeed. So that’s great.

But we’re in a period now where there’s a whole ton of people that are entrepreneurs because it’s cool. And I’m not saying that all of those people will fail, but that’s a different era than when no one wants to do it. And the only people that are doing it are the nerds that just have to do it because it’s in their blood.

Owen Goode:

Well, I’m curious if even the word ‘entrepreneur’ has started to kind of go the way of the influencer. Is it like an influencer now, if you say you’re an entrepreneur, oh, you don’t have a real job, you live in your parents’ basement or whatever?

Brian McCullough:

Well, that’s one of those things, like all of the frigging, you know, keywords that people put in their Instagram things like I’m this I’m that I’m this thing. And the other thing, yeah, look, it’ll go in cycles. So if you think you’ve missed it, if you’re listening right now and you’re like, well, I can’t keep up with these other people. Don’t worry about it because a lot of these people are going to wash out. A cycle will come through.

The best thing that anybody that really wants to be an entrepreneur should do is not just be like, “I want to be an entrepreneur.” Find a niche that you can be super, super passionate about. And, you know, there was a time when video games were considered a niche, not a huge global industry. When movies, when cars, you know, if you read the history of the automobile industry and like just fricking nerds with wrenches in garages, tinkering on carriages and things like that. Find something right now that you can be super passionate about, and then you’ll accidentally find the company that you’ll start because of that.

Marcus Smith:

It’s a different approach to entrepreneurship. I don’t know if That’s the story that’s being told. Are the stories being told, either in, in some ways self-selecting or even accurate, you know?

Brian McCullough:

Yeah, but the thing is, is, is like all of history, but especially for this sort of history, it’s told by the winners. So, I did the internet history podcast before that the *Techmeme Ride Home* show, and I interviewed about 200 and some odd people. And I always have said to people, ” I know within five minutes, if someone’s going to tell me, ‘I knew it all along that this was going to be successful because I’m brilliant. And I knew I was brilliant then, and I’m brilliant now. And so let me just tell you how brilliant I was.’ Versus the people that will be honest.

And so the problem is that, once you’re successful, what’s the real motivation for you to share the, “yeah, I didn’t know. Yeah, I was peeing my pants half the time.” Like, let’s come back to entrepreneur porn. The thing about entrepreneur porn that is sort of corrosive to people that want to become entrepreneurs is that there’s too much ego fluffing, and there’s too much, “I always knew this and I was brilliant.”

I guarantee you, even the most successful people that you could name, there were times when they had doubts and whatever. And that’s the point is that if everyone was honest, you had doubts 90% of the way, and then one day you woke up and you were like, “this actually worked.” That’s the real entrepreneurs’ journey.

Now, can you make a podcast about that? That’s like, “I failed. I failed. I failed. I hate myself. This is a terrible idea. This is gonna, I’m gonna, I’m losing everybody’s money. Oh, then we won.” It’s easier to have a narrative where it’s like, “no one believed me, no one believed me, but I always believed, and then we won.” The former is more true than the latter.

Marcus Smith:

And that is actually part of the story that we’re trying to capture with Founders Forge. Let me talk to these early-stage founders, and when they pivot, the next month I go back and talk to him and be like, “Hey, you pivoted, you know, what changed?”

Owen Goode:

The follow-up episodes are the most fun by far because we come back six months a year later and they’re in a completely different business. And we’re like, “okay, tell us how you got here.” This is the actual meat.

Brian McCullough:

I’m thinking of people in my portfolio right now where it’s like, “you’re so committed that even if you have to pivot three times, you’re still going to make this work.” That’s an entrepreneur that you want to back. There’s other entrepreneurs that are sort of like the nerds where it’s like, “I just have a pure vision for this little narrow thing, and I’m gonna ride this like blue lightning all the way to the promised land.” Right? That’s another entrepreneur you want to back.

The entrepreneurs that are difficult are in between those two extremes where it’s like, super committed, it doesn’t matter what the idea is. “You make me go into horse racing, I’ll win the Kentucky Derby.” Versus somebody that is like, “I only care about role-playing games and I’m going to make the greatest role-playing game that the world has ever seen. And we’ll have a billion users.” Pure vision versus just pure drive, I guess, is the difference.

Owen Goode:

When you interviewed all those people for the book, which is the best way to gather data for a book is to do a whole podcast on it. What was the breakdown?

Brian McCullough:

The people that were the most successful were the least likely to give me real information that was usable for the book. Because look, you’re asking me about something that happened 20 years ago and I’m worth $400 million, so why would I tell you the real story?

Now that’s not to say I couldn’t use quotes from them as well, but whenever. The people that would give me the straight dope would be the people that had never been asked about their role in this. So like, an engineer at a company that was successful or big or something that had a big founder, but no one had ever asked them about their role in it. Those were the people that gave me the most stuff.

Owen Goode:

They finally had a platform. That makes sense.

So, in light of kind of all of this, where do you see the future of a founding, if you will, going? Especially in light of current tech economy for better or worse and everything we’ve talked about, like what do you see the next five or 10 years looking like for early-stage founders?

Brian McCullough:

For early-stage founders. First of all, don’t worry about the market cycles right now. So like, even if we had a recession at the end of this year. I’ve been talking a lot on the show about how the tech stocks have been getting killed on the stock market recently. So no one has IPOed. Remember, last year people were IPOing every other day, and there’s not been a tech IPO in a while because of the market. But don’t worry about that.

Cause if you found your company now, your IPO is not going to come for a decade. So who cares? Like that’s the equivalent of founding in 2008, you know, or your Airbnb, like, so sure it took you 12 years, but wherever you are right now, it’s, it’s my same advice when people ask if I should have a kid, is it is the timing, right? The timing’s never right, but it’s also never wrong. Like you just have to do it. That kid is gonna go to college 18 years from now; that company is going to IPO 10 to 12 years from now. So do it now.

And in fact, it’s probably better to do it in an iffy time, as opposed to a boom time, because then maybe by the time you’re in a blah, blah, blah. I do think we’re overdue for correction recession or whatever, in, in, in tech.

Except for the fact that what we talked about earlier, where there are just too many good ideas. And there’s too much money being thrown at things. At the height of the .com bubble, I think venture capital globally was like $60 billion that year. And then three years later, the total amount of venture capital invested in say 2003 was $9 billion. Right? Today, it’s approaching 500 billion. We have an entire generation of people wanting to start companies. I think we’re sort of in a sort of tidal wave time where there’s just going to be so many ideas and there’s so much money to make it happen. That is a great time.

Owen Goode:

That’s the narrative that we run into in our day jobs as software consultants, everything is tech whether they’ve realized it or not. And yeah, it is unstoppable. And I don’t know, that’s, that’s, that’s interesting to hear from your perspective, too, because if anybody would be well-informed enough to know if that’s all hype and if the smart money is betting against that, it would probably be you.

Marcus Smith:

We also are seeing just changes in the way that the capital markets are played out, right? With crowdfunding, or what they’re calling now, community round if you’re a Wefunder follower. And so that again changes the market. I’m curious if there’s going to be a more institutionalized version of entrepreneurship, as people are interested in it, where you have basically young kids who are being groomed to go be an entrepreneur. And they’re not that person who’s passionate about something specific, but they’ve got that mindset, that grit.

Owen Goode:

Well, you talked about this a couple of days ago on the show with A16Z being more or less a full-service offering at this point. So extrapolate on that.

Brian McCullough:

Every market can become professionalized and institutionalized. And we’re seeing that in venture capital where it’s still sort of like a handholding, like personal connections, networking thing. And within 10 years, I guarantee you it’ll be the same as wall street, where everything is sort of institutional and that’s good and bad. One thing that I do know, before the nineties, less than I think it was 15% of Americans had ever invested in the stock market. Okay? And so now that number is probably over 60%. Maybe it’s higher. Maybe it’s like 70%.

Where we are now is the idea that Americans could become in startups, we’re at the very, very beginning of that. And so that’s a tidal wave that is coming. And one of the things, you know, there are people that are skeptical about web three and crypto and things like that, but one of the things that I’m super bullish on about web three and crypto is that it is enabling these sorts of things. So like you could imagine a scenario where the tokenization of startups and Dows and things like that, what if that’s the killer app for web three?

Marcus Smith:

Yup. We’ve been talking about that for a couple of years. What does it look like if you basically instead of stocks in a company almost like stocks in a person or a founding team where it’s like, whatever they put out. I don’t know what it is at this point.

Brian McCullough:

It’s liquid and it’s tradable and things like that. Even my fund, which again, I’m not talking about this because I want anyone listening to invest in it, but even if you wanted to, there are still rules about you have to be an accredited investor and all these things. There’s a company that I’m invested in that is going to do a token drop in a couple of months. And so like, if you liked this company, and I told you about it on the show, you don’t have to be an accredited investor invested in my fund. You could find that token, and invest in it. There’s going to be some messiness and some, and some blood on the floor. But if that’s pointing to what is coming, then, then I think that’s gonna be great.

Owen Goode:

That makes perfect sense. Inherently, it solves the ownership problem of digital goods, and the implications of that are just enormous. Suffice to say then that you are bullish in the extreme on tech?

Brian McCullough:

My bias is always that I love tech because it’s the only industry I’ve known my entire professional adult life. And I love it so much that it pains me when it’s not as good as it could be. So my bias is that I always want the industry I love to be better. That’s it. That’s sort of like love, maybe it’s love in an abusive relationship, but it is true love. And so I, I want to fix tech, you know.

Owen Goode:

That tracks exactly what you were saying about what makes founders work. Cause you’re, you’re doing it because you love it. And because you have that single-minded passion. And with that in mind, I mean, you’re extremely well-read, I tend to go look at whatever you recommend, what would you tell our listeners or early-stage founders? If you could only recommend a couple of things aside from your book, *How The internet Happened,* and your show.

You’ve touched this industry so long in so many ways, what is your favorite start here? Go here. When somebody is like, you know, I’m thinking about making the jump in this.

Brian McCullough:

I’m going to give you one that won’t make a lot of sense, but it really does, which is Daniel Juergen’s book on oil. It’s called *The Prize, The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power*. So this is not an entrepreneurial book, but if you want to get a sense of like, how I think about things that we’ve been talking about in terms of like, how tech impacts society and how one of the reasons why one side won world war one and world war II than the other is oil and things like that.

So as a history or describer of how an industry can impact society for a century and what that means geopolitically, and, by the way, *The Prize* is a great entrepreneurial textbook about people like Rockefeller and like people that went out to Buchu and Azerbaijan, and we’re like, ” what is this black liquid good for?” Oh, by the way, it’ll power the entire 20th century. That’s a weird one, but if you asked me for five books that influenced the way that I think about this sort of stuff, that’s in the top five.

Marcus Smith:

That’s understanding the world as systems and systems that repeat themselves. Right? And so you’re looking at a system, the commodities, the oil may be there, but if we try to apply that same system understanding to tech, what does it look like?

Brian McCullough:

I would say that if you’re into crypto and web3, and you think it’s going to change society, read that book to see how an idea did change society, I know that I’m a history nerd, but that’s the sort of like pattern matching that I look for to see what are the things that throughout history have made these sorts of things happen.

So you can read histories of capitalism and how bourses and things like that got created in the Netherlands and things like that. And the first joint-stock companies. But if you believe that we’re at a time where an idea, and or a commodity and, or a technology is going to completely transform society, *The Prize* and oil, it’s maybe not apples to apples, but, it’s apples to oranges that would be instructive I think.

Owen Goode:

Human nature hasn’t changed that much. That’s fantastic. All of this has been fantastic.

Brian, thank you so much. Definitely go listen to Brian’s show *Techmeme Ride Home* every day. It’s my secret weapon. I’ve had people ask me, “you don’t have a background in this, how do you know what’s going on?” And I tell them it’s Brian, so thank you again, appreciate you.

Brian McCullough:

I appreciate you having me on and I love you guys being thoughtful about this stuff and not just being entrepreneur porn, but actually poking at things, I like that.


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