Inspiration Proves Increasingly Elusive for A VC

Posted on June 23, 2008
Filed Under Culture & Technology |

Last week, a commenter on this blog pointed me in the direction of an interesting post by Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist in New York and the author of the popular blog, A VC.

In his post, Wilson lamented that he’s not finding much inspiration in the technology blogosphere these days.

He wrote:

As technology blogging has become defined by blogs like Techcrunch, Gigaom, VentureBeat, Valleywag, PaidContent, AlleyInsider, and many others that are quickly becoming news organizations optimizing around scoops and driving readership, I am feeling that we’ve lost something, or at least we need to look elsewhere for that magic that was existent back in the first half of this decade.

He’s seeking something more than what the blogosphere is currently offering:

Who knows if what I want exists or can exist. But I want techmeme for inspiration. I want a place I can go every day and get inspired by real people. It hasn’t happened for me in many years in traditional media and honestly it’s happening for me less and less these day in online/social media.

I found Wilson’s post interesting because I’ve pointed out before that the technologies we often perceive to be beneficial to us often aren’t.

Social networks isolate us. Communications tools like cell phones degrade our communication skills. Web 2.0 promotes narcissism. The internet itself is .

In Wilson’s case, it appears that the freshness of the technology blogosphere has worn off and he’s been left to ponder the fact that now that the initial “high” is gone, there’s not a whole lot of “inspiration” to be found.

I felt compelled to respond to Wilson and posted the following comment:

Fred: have you ever considered that inspiration comes primarily from within?

Perhaps your problem is that you’ve been searching for inspiration from others instead of searching for it within yourself.

As Carl Jung said, “He who looks outside, dreams; he who looks inside, awakes.”

In Wilson’s discussion of “inspiration,” I was reminded of the words of St. Augustine, who observed:

“People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.”

And so it goes with technology. Misguided individuals seek some sort of inspiration through a blog or a gadget, all the while forgetting that these things alone are incapable of providing the type of fulfillment most spend their whole lives seeking despite the fact that it is right under their noses.

One might point out the apparent contradiction in my comments on this matter. After all, I write a blog and I often ponder the ideas and works of others.

Yet I blog not because I find inspiration in the topics I write about but because I find inspiration in the process of taking my thoughts and transforming them into the written word.

I find that I become a better thinker when I am challenged to turn abstract thought into concrete language. It does not matter what I write about and it does not matter if what I write is read.

I would note that history’s great thinkers - from Buddha to Thoreau, Shakespeare to Einstein - were generally not individuals who sought comfort through the popular external stimuli of the day. They spent more time alone with their thoughts than they did interacting tritely with people and things.

To be sure, they were not isolated from the world and were actually keen observers of it, but the source of their wisdom, and inspiration, was introspection, not interest. In other words, interest in the absence of introspection rarely leads to inspiration.

While the thoughts of others can get the creative juices flowing, my advice to Fred Wilson is: don’t confuse the interesting with the inspirational. The former exists in great abundance. The latter exists only when one decides to search the “Innernet” instead of the Internet.

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6 Responses to “Inspiration Proves Increasingly Elusive for A VC”

  1. Tom on June 23rd, 2008 11:48 am

    Clearly something that’s been on Fred’s mind as of late.

    “[] I am a bit jealous of friends who are working on finding and funding alternative energy or biomedical technologies that have the potential to address the serious problems facing the world. At times it seems that helping the web become more social, intelligent, mobile, and playful is not as impactful.”

  2. Drama 2.0 on June 23rd, 2008 12:09 pm

    Tom: thanks for linking to that post. Interesting read.

    I found this amusing:

    As I make my way through Zakaria’s Post-American World, I am struck by the power of bringing the world together. As the “rest” modernizes in the next 20-40 years, we have a unique opportunity to create a world where people all feel like they belong to the same society.

    I’d be interested to learn what Wilson thinks “modernization” is. I suspect he has a bourgeoisie definition.

    I’d also be interested to learn why he thinks the world will be a better place when “people all feel like they belong to the same society.” One of the great things about the world is that we have diverse societies, each with a unique culture and rich history.

    Frankly, I don’t want homogenization of society and while I think it’s great that the Internet gives us the opportunity to interact with people around the world, people are truly “brought together” when they connect in real life.

  3. Mark Forman on June 23rd, 2008 7:02 pm

    Good post-I too have been giving some thought to Fred’s post. I like your choice of philosophical arguments for validating the current trends. So many times I see web 2,0 and am reminded of Nirvana’s lyric, “here we are now,entertain us…” Keep the thoughts coming.

  4. Mary Trigiani on June 24th, 2008 10:21 pm

    You know, I think the most inspiring times for social media are ahead of us. Maybe Mr Wilson’s comments reveal more about the technologists and their backers than they do about the use of their inventions.

    A lot of innovators lose interest once a product is developed. That’s the phase that jazzes them. The use or deployment of the product — what happens in the market and how use evolves over time — is no thrill for them.

    Hence the skepticism of marketing, the “user error” excuse, the visible discomfort with conventional behavior and society. The adoption of social media is not going to happen because the underlying code is sensational or the algorithms a dream. Social technology will become a force when people find a way to use it in their daily lives.

  5. Isolde on June 28th, 2008 1:27 pm

    Well, he has a lot of company. Wall Street isn’t too impressed either. In this article on the NYT, I quote:

    “There is nothing that the industry is producing that investors want,” Mr. Kedrosky said. “The stuff they’re investing in is idiosyncratic — it’s fun and appealing to them but Wall Street doesn’t care.”

    “The Valley is operating in its own little world, and the capital markets don’t care about the things that are getting the Valley excited.”

    Here’s the link:

  6. on July 1st, 2008 10:24 am

    […] Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures suggests that the United States needs a friendlier regulatory environment but as Glen Kelman responds: Fred, regulations aside, how many VC-funded companies have a legitimate shot at being long-standing, independent businesses? How many entrepreneurs do you meet that even aspire to to build such companies? […]

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