Kottke’s Business Influences

Jason Kottke writes on: My business influences

As you may have noticed by reading the site in the past year, I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about companies…how they succeed, why they fail, how to approach them from a holistic sense so they make sense on a human scale and not just from a business perspective, that sort of thing. In deciding to start my own little company of one, here are a few things I’ve run across that have influenced how I’m approaching it.

I don’t have many heroes, but Craig Newmark is definitely one of them. He’s had offers to sell craigslist for millions of dollars, many offers from VCs, he could charge for all listings on the site, or he could fill the site with advertising, but this is what he wants out of craigslist (via Wired): “get yourself a comfortable living, then do a little something to change the world”. The many articles I’ve read about Craig have really reinforced for me that you need to let your values drive business decisions and not the other way around.

I’ve mentioned this a few times on the site before, but Ludicorp, the makers of Flickr, has the one of the best quotes about business I’ve ever read on their about page. It’s an excerpt from Disclosing New Worlds: Entrepreneurship, Democratic Action and the Cultivation of Solidarity by Charles Spinosa, Fernando Flores & Hubert Dreyfus:

Saying that the point of business is to produce profit is like saying that the whole point of playing basketball is to make as many baskets as possible. One could make many more baskets by having no opponent.

Dave Eggers gets a lot of crap, but I like the way he’s trying to run McSweeney’s:

But the way that McSweeney’s is run is, “Can there be a way that what they call mid-list authors, people who don’t sell in the Danielle Steel category, can still have an audience and still make a living?” McSweeney’s has very little overhead, to the degree that we can sell 6,000 copies of somebody’s book, and he can still get a decent amount of money, because he’s getting more per book because of the low overhead. That’s still our goal. I was just sort of going along with the same business model, like, “If we sell 50,000 copies, then everyone will do fine, and life will stay quiet.”

Not trying to take over the world, just doing something in balance with the lives of everyone concerned.

There are lots more people other there doing wonderful things with their business lives (37signals, the independent Mac developers like Ranchero, Delicious Monster, and Panic, etc.) but that’s enough for now.