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Chasing Outlier Ideas
The world feels malleable when you're with extraordinary people.
Before we get into it - I want to address the horrific events in Israel over the past few days.
I am no expert on the subject leading up to the recent events but there is no justification for what the world witnessed this weekend.
My heart goes out to the hostages, those impacted, and those who lost loved ones. The acts that were committed this weekend were ones of barbaric terrorism.
Praying for all of those who are suffering. My heart goes out to all of you.
For those in NYC - I know many of you are planning to host events in support of the community. Please reach out if I can help with providing a venue, amplifying your messaging, or donating out of my personal fund. I will do my best to support you.
Today’s piece is written by a good friend of mine, Phil Rosen, who is a senior reporter over at Business Insider. He’s an incredibly talented writer who has been to 10+ of my events and was kind enough to write an article on the founder event I hosted a few weeks back.
I’m headed to Montreal tomorrow for a few days but will be back in time for the New York Tech Gala on October 16. If you’ll be there - please say hello!
A few weeks ago I partnered with Anthony “Pomp” Pompliano to put together an exclusive event.
Our goal? To create the most actionable and impactful event possible for founders. Our metric was “insights-per-minute”.
We invited speakers like Keith Rabois, Peter Pham, Kat Cole, Howard Lerman, and Nikita Bier. It was a massive success with 2 jam packed days of programming, an incredible schedule of content, and 700 vetted founders in attendance.
In his words…
Extraordinary People Chase Outlier Ideas
When you put 700 founders in a room, the most common question you hear is not “what do you do?”
It’s “what problem are you trying to solve?”
I spent the weekend at BUILD Summit in New York City, hosted by Andrew Yeung, Anthony and Polina Pompliano, meeting hundreds of first-time CEOs, serial entrepreneurs, and executives running billion-dollar companies.
After more than 20 hours of conversation packed into two days, one assumption I’m comfortable making is that no one who runs a company is “normal.”
Athletic Greens President Kat Cole, for one, said her company is “freakishly obsessed” with quality, while Nikita Bier, the founder of the viral app, Gas, said you have to be “a little crazy” just to take a swing at building something.
Everyone I met at BUILD was an outlier, regardless of their level of success. Most people I spoke to admitted to more false starts than moonshots, and many acknowledged that their company was years away from being profitable.
The unifying characteristic among founders seems to be an enthusiasm for pursuing unusual, unconventional ideas that do not have guaranteed outcomes.
Outlier individuals are those who chase outlier ideas.
The Urge To Solve Problems
No one at the conference parroted platitudes of escaping the 9-to-5, gaining financial freedom, or the need to “stop working for the man.” These are side effects of a deeper motivation.
Attendees largely pointed to two drivers behind why they launched a company:
No one else could solve the problem they wanted to solve
Specific curiosity and broad ambition
Usually, it’s not that someone has an arbitrary urge to leave a job or make more money. It’s that not starting a company is no longer an option.
Among those who have grown startups into money-printing machines, it’s true that most are very smart. But we can learn more by examining what direction they point that brain power in, rather than merely chalking up success to intelligence.
Let’s return to our above definition: Outlier individuals chase outlier ideas.
These ideas unfold organically. If you want an example, a good test is to ask yourself what you would do for free — that’s the origin story for a lot of startups.
Entrepreneurs have a habit of working on their own projects, and the proclivity exists well before founding a company. Those projects are born from curiosity.
An excessive interest pointed in a specific direction is plenty energizing to get something off the ground. It’s even better if that curiosity brings you to a niche that would bore most people.
The more excited you get about some outlier idea, the higher the odds no one else is paying attention. This is a good thing — curiosity allows someone to learn what everyone else overlooks. Great work, founders tell me, happens when someone spends what others would consider too much time on one thing.
Think of the physics student who loves physics, and the physics student who’s only there to get a high-paying job. Who has the higher ceiling?
With enough curiosity, sustaining a project has nothing to do with motivation or financial promise. Most founders see their initial wonder snowball into an ambition they can no longer ignore, which ultimately makes entrepreneurship inevitable.
Work That Doesn’t Feel Like Work
On Saturday, Howard Lerman, the founder of multiple companies including Yext, which at one point was worth $2 billion, remarked that a 70-hour work week was typical. The crowd nodded in agreement.
He then asked the BUILD audience how many people work Sunday nights, and everyone’s hands, including mine, shot up.
These founders didn’t raise their hand out of some marriage to diligence, but an obsession with the problem at hand. Being deeply interested means work doesn’t feel like work. Something, rather than nothing, is always getting done, and those efforts compound over time. That’s what leads to outsized success.
BUILD showed me just how malleable the world can be for enterprising individuals who choose to go all in on their own curiosity. I find spending time with founders so energizing because it reminds me not just of what’s possible, but what is likely.
Success isn’t some black box. Making a dent in the universe happens when someone goes out of their way to chase an outlier idea. It’s about figuring out what doesn’t feel like work — then mustering the courage to pursue it.
📌 Andrew’s Picks
Fascinating internet things I’ve come across:
Marc Andreessen on Writing — The power of writing: “If you're early in your career and want to stand out, start writing. Take notes. Write the plan. Take charge of the next internal memo.”
Mean People Fail — An excerpt from the legendary Paul Graham and how he’s observed that very few of the most successful people he knows are mean. Being mean makes you stupid. And being mean alienates the top talent.
Accelerated Learning — Shane Parrish’s blog is a treasure trove of materials designed to help you think more clearly. Dubbed “Wall Street’s biggest Influencer” his content helps high performers make better decisions. Someone I’ve followed for a while.
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🖼️ Behind the Scenes
Last week I hosted first Junto Dinner last week for a group of 19 C-suite leaders.
When you bring together a group of smart, remarkable people - you exponentially amplify the impact and influence of each individual.
Upcoming dinner formats include early-stage founders, unicorn CMOs, late stage CTOs, etc.
If you’d like to attend (or sponsor) an upcoming dinner, fill this out or email me.