Checking in on my fox-like game plan, 5 years in.

Around September 2012 I decided I was doing it all wrong. After many years of plain-old striving (hardcore high school, killing on standardized tests, Ivy League, double major, PhD in half the time, McKinsey and in startup land the same sort of obsessive hard work & excellence), I came to the end of a cycle and rethought my approach.

I’d slaved way on Peek, gotten to a good outcome for myself, and realized I hadn’t done anything else in years. I had passed on many promising startup investments, and passed on many fantastic ideas.

I thought a bit about the Fox and the Hedgehog a bit, and decided maybe I’m really a fox, living life as a hedgehog. Maybe I’d be happier, and do better work, if I could embrace my foxy nature.

So I decided to change radically with the following formula: I would do everything that seemed promising, a little bit, with tangible outputs for each little bit of time or energy I invested, and I’d keep on doing it as long as it kept making progress.

I made a spreadsheet of ideas and started refining a formula for selecting good ideas.

I started building Knote, which is itself a place for storing ideas (so you don’t have to feel anxious you’ll lose an idea by failing to immediately pursue it), sharing ideas (so you can collaborate and get feedback), check in updates (so small increments of thinking/research/connections/work product), and come back to things after a hiatus to pick the threads back up.

With cofounders, I started some companies:

  • Knote (moving along, venture backed)
  • Inbox Awesome (in its 5th year, 2 conferences, 2 continents)
  • Halo Neuroscience (has achieved some great revenue and technology milestones, >$10mm of venture)
  • PostX (dead)
  • Micrologistical (dead)
  • Mynd (dead)
  • Knotel (on fire, significant revenue and venture backing)
  • and probably a number of others that I’m forgetting in this casual blog post

As some of these expand and get serious (i.e., Knotel) I’m spending virtually all my time there. So while the list is long, it isn’t a uniform distribution of time, energy and creativity.

Knotel in particular is super fun and interesting, and like a Hilbert Hotel keeps getting more interesting. More cities, more companies, venture funds, property funds, more scale, more types of companies, more sizes of companies, more functional workspace types, newer technology generations. Knotel, like the greatest businesses (Amazon? Google?) spawns more interesting puzzles and opportunities that keep expanding the potential. Which is to say: don’t let the list-length get you worrying about focus.

And what about focus? “Focus” is not a choice between the Fox and the Hedgehog. Focus is for foxes too (they hunt and eat, but in surprising ways).

Something else important: it’s far more fun. 2007-2012 (the CEO of Peek Years) were not as fun as 2012-2017 (the Cofounder of Everything Years).

Here’s to hoping 2018 is even better.