Can entrepreneurs do good?

My social life is a dismal affair. I work, and then retire to my abode where I work on small projects, and when possible spend some time with my understanding girlfriend. On the rare occasion I get out, I can be found looking for something dev related, or startup-ish. Tonight I found myself listening to Alexis Ohanian (co-founder of Reddit) speak at UF.  His talk was quick, but it reminded me of a question that rears its head when I attend these sort of events: can entrepreneurs do good?

The answer is yes, but it isn’t the norm, and it isn’t the express purpose of entrepreneurship today.

From my observations, the great bulk of entrepreneurs exist to create something that will quickly make their lives better(money, influence, power) but avoid thinking if what they are doing is good.

Good is not a flashy marketing term, but a word of substance in its simplicity. Good is not creating the next way for your dog to get a treat (by what I will  consider an ironically named company) or getting you coffee delivered in five minutes. These companies use words like convenience, comfort, and ease to describe their value. Doing good centers around providing tangible benefit to people, not fluffing their pillow.

Doing good is usually associated with altruism, with non-profits, and with kindhearted groups who find intrinsic value more compelling than capitalistic value. I contend, in our society where an entrepreneurs’ value is derived solely by their greed, an entrepreneur is not motivated to do good, and if they do it is accidental.

I hope to find that there are exceptions, but I have not found much. We are simply not motivated to do good. Rather, we find that monetary compensation is more valuable than the value that can be gained by positively affecting others or our surroundings. More specifically, I feel like the VC model does not allow for any thought beyond the short game(there is no thought put into how an entrepreneur and his product can do in a decade, only how quickly revenue can be generated so their investments can mature into profits).

Hopefully I can be proven wrong, and the creativity of entrepreneurs is not squandered on dog food and backpack coffee.

Meditation

I am not the type of person who believes in the healing power of negative ions or of crystals. If there isn’t hard evidence to prove that something is as described, or if there isn’t enough compelling evidence  I quickly dismiss it and cry ‘hokum!’. However, I have found that some form of meditation does something for me that I feel couldn’t be achieved by any other means.

I was skeptical at first. I had some very ingrained ideas as to what meditation was, and would continue to be. My conception of meditation took the most obvious of the stereotypes associated with meditation and hyper exaggerated them. Unfortunately, there were people who epitomized these stereotypes right here in Gainesville. I see crystals for sale (and being sold), some bits of metal that are suppose to channel your energies, and have been provided pamphlets that best describe the ideal positions in which one should meditate.

I overcame these pathetic misconceptions and began some basic meditation. It began with simply sitting in silence for an indiscriminate amount of time. I haven’t [progressed much further than this, but I feel that doing so isn’t necessary. I have found that the simple moments to myself are capable of removing external fears, compulsions, and whatever else is hindering more productive thought.

I couldn’t be compelled to pressure anyone else to attempt meditation- I had been politely informed(which is the most subtle form of pressure imaginable) that I could benefit from meditation, but that only fueled my maligned opinion of the subject.  I will only mention that it has helped me remember that our concerns are shallow, and within a broader perspective are manageable.

Twenty Fourteen

This past year has been good to me. I have had a big-boy job for the entirety of the year, and have done some contract work for some amazing people around Florida, have found that while Gainesville is a small place, there is plenty to be still discovered, and much more I won’t bore you with.

Looking forward. I have learned a lot working for UF. I considered myself a strict front-end developer before I started at UF, but the varied nature of my responsibilities have lead me to shift my focus to the darkened side of the server world. I have picked up useful skills with server provisioning and deployment and  several server-side languages/security. Unfortunately, I feel that because my focus has shifted, I have not given my front-end self room to explore.

So for 2014 I have made myself a short list of things I’d like to do. I wouldn’t consider these resolutions, merely things that I hope to do with what free time I have:

  • Build a full fledged web app that does something meaningful (meaning it positively impacts the world in a significant way, not just ‘the next X that will make your first-world life easier!’)
  • Build a web app that generates revenue using a front end JS framework
  • Contribute to several open source projects

I’m sure there is more to this list, but for now I am content with these three things. In fact, it is possible that the first two bullets will be the same thing, but I am not delusional enough to think that something meaningful could make a profit.

In my personal life, I intend to travel. Last year I intended to travel abroad, but those plans were dashed when I realized I was an adult that has insurance premiums and loans to be paid/repaid. Now that those have bitten the dust, I am left open to travel.