• Women 2.0 HowTo Conference San Francisco, September 30 - October 1, 2014

Bad Ideas Don’t Prevent Tech Startups from Innovating; A Can’t-Do Culture Does

shutterstock_131501414

The co-founder and partner of Andreessen Horowitz thinks pointing out what’s wrong with startups prevents them from innovating and succeeding.

By Betsy Mikel (Contributing Writer, Women 2.0)

We have technology to thank for a better way to stay in touch with faraway friends, a better way to read the news and a better way to track our health and fitness routines. The word technology itself means “a better way of doing things.”

Noticing what in our lives needs improvement is easy. Actually coming up with a better way of doing things is hard. That’s why every startup hits bumps and why many ultimately fail. That’s also why it’s usually easier to find what’s wrong with a tech startup than to find what’s right about it.

In a recent essay on Re/Code, venture capitalist Ben Horowitz discusses how he sees the “can’t do” culture threatening to invade innovation at tech startups:

As a venture capitalist, people often ask me why big companies have trouble innovating while small companies seem to be able to do it so easily. My answer is generally unexpected. Big companies have plenty of great ideas, but they do not innovate because they need a whole hierarchy of people to agree that a new idea is good in order to pursue it. If one smart person figures out something wrong with an idea — often to show off or to consolidate power — that’s usually enough to kill it.

Horowitz goes onto describe what a “can-do” culture looks like:

The trouble with innovation is that truly innovative ideas often look like bad ideas at the time. That’s why they are innovative — until now, nobody ever figured out that they were good ideas. Creative big companies like Amazon and Google tend to be run by their innovators. Larry Page will unilaterally fund a good idea that looks like a bad idea and dismiss the reasons why it can’t be done.

Hating on technology isn’t new. Even Charles Babbage and Alexander Graham Bell, inventors of the computer and telephone respectively, struggled to sell their innovations. Horowitz closes his essay with this conclusion:

Who does the Can’t-Do Culture hurt the most? Ironically, it hurts the haters. The people who focus on what’s wrong with an idea or a company will be the ones too fearful to try something that other people find stupid. They will be too jealous to learn from the great innovators. They will be too pigheaded to discover the brilliant young engineer who changes the world before she does. They will be too cynical to inspire anybody to do anything great. They will be the ones who history ridicules.

What other factors get in the way of tech innovation?

BMikelPhotoSquareBetsy Mikel is a freelance copywriter and content strategist who helps brands, businesses and entrepreneurs tell their stories. A journalist at heart, her curiosity drives her to find something new to learn every single day. Follow her on Twitter at @betsym.