There was a time where I wanted to work at a big tech megacorp. 6 digits paychecks, a good employee package, respect, a good line on the resume, and important challenges to solve. A “Dream Job”.
Then I read about what’s a typical day at Google/Facebook/Apple/[insert relevant company] and I wasn’t so excited anymore.
Then I watched Mr. Robot and the question of ethics came out.
I wanted to rebel, I wanted to become a counter-power with a strong moral compass.
Startups appeared as the antithesis of the typical evilcorp. At first.
After co-founding one and going through an incubator, I understood 99% of the 10% surviving startups are fated to become evil: to grow too big for the sake of their users, or to be acquired by a megacorp.
Startup founders are no rebels, they are destined to feed the vicious circle of venture capitalism.
We live in a tightly-coupled system where everything is linked: there is no living independently from big corporations.
I am tempted to say “only the strong survive”, from a purely Darwinian perspective, but it’s incorrect: only the really big or the really small strive. Humans cohabiting with bacterias.
One might argue indie businesses are different from VC-backed startups in this regard. Not true. Any service you use is somehow linked to a global country-sized company: you depend on Google for SEO, or Amazon for infrastructure, or Apple for the iOS app market, etc.
When you buy from a business you participate in the growth of its partners. It’s especially true for B2B and B2B2C businesses.
How to break free from big corporations to become truly independent then? Is it even possible to be free? These are questions worth living for.
You might be tempted to try changing things from the inside. It’s a pretty naïve statement I often hear. The reason why it doesn’t work is pretty simple: companies are no democracy. An individual going through a particular environment for a long stretch of time always ends up molded by it, even unconsciously. Decisions are taken by those who lead, and reaching the top of the ladder is a matter of amoral politics, not the result of a strong ethic driven by virtue and wisdom.
There is only one way to be truly independent, it’s called self-sufficiency.
Being indie from the start is impossible, it’s a constant effort. Self-sufficiency is the result of a maker mindset: the will and the ability to do things yourself with others.
You can be self-sufficient by yourself or in a community. All that matters is agreeing on a common set of actionable values: privacy-first, openness, collaboration, etc. - considering carefully the business partners who will accompany you on your journey is of utter importance.
The more you grow, the pickier you can become when it comes to taking business decisions. You can develop more features in-house, and the quest for mastery always pushes you to improve and know more of what matters to fulfill your business needs.
Making a business is political. You need leverage. You need real customers who will help you to help them. Financial independence is indeed a central concept in self-sufficiency. I don’t think you can consider yourself independent when all your actions are driven by the need to please your investors. Investors can also be real customers, but they are incredibly rare and need to share your values, which is why it’s more of a matter of fate to meet the right ones. Looking for investors for the sake of raising funds is a dead-end: ramen profitability must drive the founders from the start to create a sustainable business. Then the right investors will come to you, not the other way around, and you will have the leverage to keep your vision in check.
An indie product is a garden taking time and patience.
Is it even possible to reach self-sufficiency? Ironically, I think mega-corporations show us it is, to a certain level. Contracts should never prevail over laws, and companies are always required to submit to countries. There is no living outside society. On the other hand, you can consider Apple or Google to be self-sufficient from a purely economical point of view. Apple doesn’t need Google to sell iPhones, it has enough leverage to attract others to their organization.
to be edited and continued another day…