Dream bigger

I remember reading somewhere lately about the lack of vision in new startups and entrepreneurs in the technology industry lately.

Apple was about unleashing creativity and bringing humanity to tech. Google was about freeing the world’s information. What’s the new crop of tech startups about – getting more pageviews, driving more business, separating “consumers” (oh how I hate that categorization, classification, and the value system that drives it) from their cash?

I was reminded of this when reading about SCVNGR’s business strategy this morning. SCVNGR, or Scavenger, is about gamifying life. Apologies to the no-doubt bright peeps there, but their current slogan “SCVNGR is a game about doing challenges at places” doesn’t quite cut it for me. Frankly, it sounds pathetic. I can just image the brainstorming session at which that was created. Long hours until this was the weak, pallid, flabby result.

A game about? What do you mean, a game about? Doing challenges (what kind of challenges)? At places? Isn’t everything done in “places?” Seriously. Bad. Slogan.

However, to get back on track (yes, there is a track) here’s the quote that struck me. SCVNGR CEO Seth Priebatsch is talking about LevelUp, the new payment processing technology that is being built into the app:

To create a series of actions which get consumers to spend more and come back more often. And this help the business make more money off of each transaction.

Really? This is the big picture, the big goal? Turning people into Pavlovian dachshunds? Getting a big bigger piece of the pie? Fundamentally uninteresting, at least at a level of changing the world or making a dent in the universe, Steve Jobs style.

The funny part is that the big dream is inherent in the goal:

People will eventually make the flow of money more and more efficient, and the cost of transferring information, or money as information, will eventually converge to zero. This concept is something that we describe as “interchange zero”. And as money flows frictionless-ly, all sorts of great things happen around that.

This is the means by which the above goal is to be achieved.

However, if you turn the tables for a second, and switch the means to be the goal, maybe you’ve got something. Essentially, you have created a new structure of means which will enable an entire ecosystem of goals which cannot now be implemented. Zero cost of exchange: what would that do? Who knows, but probably something amazing. Probably something destructive too – think about taxation and regulation of currencies. Probably something creative.

The best enterprises of the past century have all been about creating new structures of means enabling new kinds of goals. This is called unleashing human creativity.

Now that’s a big dream.


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