I have good days and bad days. I admit there are moments when I think that working on startups is futile and that none of the ideas we back will ever work as well as we want them to. On days like that I see all the reasons big institutions will hold back the kind of innovation that we think we need to improve the lives of billions of people. There are the days when I think the the London startup community can also be its own worst enemy by talking itself down or worse finding all the flaws in each others’ ideas even before they’ve got going. They’re the days when I wince at that awful quote by Margaret Mead that people use in countless dumb powerpoint presentations, “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”.
But then there are good days when, taking a step back, I realise there is huge value to be created by helping solve the big social and environmental challenges of the world. Logically, I think, somebody is going to do it and it might as well be our community that does. Then I realise that over the last few months we’ve had more people walk through our door with big ideas than ever before. I think back to some of the amazing people I’ve met who are startlingly ambitious. They’re people who realise that pushing yourself and your idea further is what creates change. They think how can we make something ten times better and not just incrementally improve the world.
By raising our ambitions we raise our tolerance of risk and also I think our chances of success. Perhaps things will go wrong specatularly and people burn out more often but I think that’s what we should be working on — finding ways that people can be stupendously ambitious as they try to improve the world but doing that in a safe and supported way.
It’s days like that when I look at Margaret Mead’s quote and can’t help thinking it’s absolutely true.