Willing Things Into Existence

The phrase relentlessly resourceful (published by Paul Graham) greatly resonates with my identity. I want to be (and often am) the person to break through walls and do whatever it takes to unlock the few things I am passionate about.

A couple days ago I finally got being a good startup founder down to two words: relentlessly resourceful.

But finally I’ve figured out how to express this quality directly. I was writing a talk for investors, and I had to explain what to look for in founders. What would someone who was the opposite of hapless be like? They’d be relentlessly resourceful. Not merely relentless. That’s not enough to make things go your way except in a few mostly uninteresting domains. In any interesting domain, the difficulties will be novel. Which means you can’t simply plow through them, because you don’t know initially how hard they are; you don’t know whether you’re about to plow through a block of foam or granite. So you have to be resourceful. You have to keep trying new things.

Of course, this is about doing…not talking.

This is particularly true of young people who have till now always been under the thumb of some kind of authority. Being relentlessly resourceful is definitely not the recipe for success in big companies, or in most schools. I don’t even want to think what the recipe is in big companies, but it is certainly longer and messier, involving some combination of resourcefulness, obedience, and building alliances.

Identifying this quality also brings us closer to answering a question people often wonder about: how many startups there could be. There is not, as some people seem to think, any economic upper bound on this number. There’s no reason to believe there is any limit on the amount of newly created wealth consumers can absorb, any more than there is a limit on the number of theorems that can be proven. So probably the limiting factor on the number of startups is the pool of potential founders. Some people would make good founders, and others wouldn’t. And now that we can say what makes a good founder, we know how to put an upper bound on the size of the pool.