Part 1 of The Impossible Startup: Ideation
“I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness...
The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance”
― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
What is the Impossible Startup?
I want to bring you on a journey as I found my third company. It’s the most ambitious one yet. We are very much in the ideation stage, hence the title of this post. If you guys like this, then I’ll write additional content on how we are executing this idea. My goal for writing this post is two fold:
Teach you how I went about this and, maybe, helping you get inspiration for your next startup
Get advice from those reading my posts
Preamble i.e our philosophy
Some of the smartest people in the world are at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google tweaking colors on buttons to increase engagement by 10 seconds. They design apps to be as addictive as possible without any concern for your personal growth and learning. All they want is to get your attention and keep it for as long as possible.
Whether it’s Facebook or Fox News the executives at these companies all make the same fundamentally wrong assumption about people. They assume that people are interested in petty squabbles, partisanship, and junk content. Don’t get me wrong, it has worked very well for them in the short term. But we are seeing these goliaths come apart at the seam as they become victims of their own arrogance; dying a slow death.
That is why we reject this cynical view of people. We reject our politicians' and tech leaders' elitist notion that your average joe is an idiot. That we are to be easily manipulated and addicted to junk content. Instead, we believe that humans want to learn, engage, and grow. And we believe that with the right platform we can bring that reality to more people.
If you believe the prevailing cynical assumptions about people then you'd think we are bound to fail. Or, simply, Twitter and the like can outcompete us if they think we are on to something. This is why I call it The Impossible Startup. Our mission is bold and questions deep held assumptions
How the idea was born
Many people had a political awakening in 2020. Many others had that awakening over the past 4 years. Everyone wanted to know the truth. They wanted someone to help them understand our crazy world. Yet, I saw my friends and family get sucked into partisan media and social media bubbles. And politicians and Silicon Valley tech companies did not help. Politicians and traditional media, whether liberal or conservative, spread disinformation and lack nuanced good-faith discussions. Facebook, Google, Twitter, and others continue to keep you in a social media bubble. Thanks to these forces people have only become more extreme in their views.
All of this reminded me of my all time favorite quote, “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance. It is the illusion of knowledge.” - Daniel J. Boorstin
So the question became this: How can we create technology to ensure that all our family, friends, coworkers and our country can engage with factual, good faith and nuanced content?
Identifying the problem that needs to be solved
I’m a big fan of first principle thinking. It’s a powerful tool for breaking down problems and ideating as you build your startup.
We used Whimsical to accomplish this. Watch this video to see how you can use this to flesh out problems and come up with startup ideas.
This was the final diagram we came up with. Not the prettiest diagram but it definitely helps you think and ideate.
As you can see, each one of the problems can have an entire startup dedicated to solving it.
We Use Notion as the only tool we pay for. Use it for Project planning, product roadmap, communication, and information repository. Seriously, I feel like you don’t need anything else as a small team other than Notion for all your needs. We even use it instead of Slack. Deep work FTW!
Do you want me to write more of these? Depending on how interested people are I’d love for you to follow me and my cofounders on this journey. If people like this then I will start publishing elsewhere so you can also follow me on Twitter, Linkedin, Medium or Substack.