Ayn Rand & Silicon Valley
My friend Jason Crawford, a tech entrepreneur longtime Objectivist, has a delightful and insightful post on the parallels between Ayn Rand and the Silicon Valley ethos. Here’s my favorite section, which contains a fascinating observation about entrepreneurship and investing I had never thought of before.
Going against the consensus
The virtue of independence—thinking for yourself—is the theme of The Fountainhead and a cardinal virtue of the Objectivist ethics. It’s also a part of the maker mentality: innovation comes from following one’s own judgment, not the herd. Fred Wilson says social proof is dangerous, while Brad Feld exhorts investors to make their own decisions.
In contrast to the makers, mere copiers like the Samwer brothers are looked down upon. In the Valley, you get more respect if you try an original idea and fail than if you copy an idea and succeed.
Rand’s basic conception of independence is having one’s primary orientation to reality, to the facts; not to other people and their ideas. To succeed in entrepreneurship and especially in investing, though, you need to go farther. You need to be not only be right, but non-consensus right. I first heard that idea and that phrase from Mike Maples, but I heard a variant of it from Peter Thiel in his recent Stanford lectures on entrepreneurship, and from Reid Hoffman at a Pando Monthly event.