On building

Some interesting notes from a past commencement address by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar:

I was working as a software engineer from 10 to 7, and I wanted to have a life on the weekends. So I built a system that could keep working – catching complaints and capturing feedback — even when Pam and I were out mountain-biking, and the only one home was our cat.

If I had had a blank check from a big VC, and a big staff running around – things might have gone much worse. I would have probably put together a very complex, elaborate system – something that justified all the investment. But because I had to operate on a tight budget – tight in terms of money and tight in terms of time – necessity focused me on simplicity: So I built a system simple enough to sustain itself.

By building a simple system, with just a few guiding principles, eBay was open to organic growth – it could achieve a certain degree of self-organization. So I guess what I’m trying to tell you is: Whatever future you’re building… Don’t try to program everything. 5 Year Plans never worked for the Soviet Union – in fact, if anything, central planning contributed to its fall. Chances are, central planning won’t work any better for any of us.

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2 Comments on “On building”

  1. Erik Benson says:

    I’m not saying he’s wrong necessarily but I’m calling “fooled by randomness” on Omidyar.

  2. Andrej Gregov says:

    I think you can say that about pretty much everyone. 🙂 Sure smarts and talent have a lot to do with success. But you most certainly can’t underestimate luck.