8 thoughts on “Ambitous vs Incremental”

  1. Hey Om, as you know I completely agree 🙂 Horizons Ventures has always heavily supported teams working on ambitious hard to solve problems, because the end rewards are so much greater. I love the fact that Google has now really replaced Bell Labs and Xerox Marc as the premier privately funded research lab in the world, that vision from Larry and Sergey has brought us Google Glasses, Driverless cars etc.

    Horizons sponsors big, game changing projects like Siri, Skype, Spotify, Genetic Finance and loads of AI driven engines/products for exactly the same reason. We aren’t that interested in “variations on a theme”, that incrementally advance social sharing or something else, by a small nuance, because those projects rarely have longevity – they seize a window in the market that quickly gets swallowed up by competitors because it is a opportunity that is difficult to defend and build upon. Essentially those teams/companies are looking to “flip” which is ok, but we are much more interested in true game changers.

    And I put my money where my mouth is. My new startup – Kuato Studios (obviously heavily supported by Horizons)- is working to solve the next phase of online education together with SRI.

    Phase one was about taking material (videos, courses etc) that was one the preserve of the privileged few and giving to everyone. But this is still a one way flow. After reading an iBook, or watching a Khan academy video or some Coursera slides – the students still have questions, and a need to really understand the concepts presented, just like in a classroom.

    The next phase is about providing the flow back from the student to the system – so we are building with SRI a massive next generation intelligent AI/Platform that helps a student solve problems, understand concepts etc and learn about them as they learn – like a tutor would do. This is a really hard problem to solve, but one that is extremely rewarding as we see the results.

    We don’t have any competitors, because like Siri, Spotify, Skype etc – no-one has tried this before – and that is what is so exciting, the opportunity to define a brand new space. That is hard, but if you have a clear goal you can get amazing people to help you build it – the best people always want to work on hard, but hugely rewarding goals.

  2. Frank

    Great points you bring up and thanks for sharing. I remain a big fan of Kuato Studios and look forward to your continued success and out of the box thinking. I really respect what Horizons is doing as well.

  3. Thanks Om – when you think about what Daniel Ek did – taking a music streaming startup out of Sweden and conquering the world, and Dag Kittlas and the team solving natural language interfaces with Siri – that’s the fun stuff 🙂 And Nick with Summly – just inspiring stuff – and I love the way Gigaom and you personally have always supported the out of the box thinking from everyone who attempts it….

    (and I noticed my typo on Xerox Parc 🙂

  4. I think Page’s point was that it’s counterintuitively difficult to get the best talent to work on really ambitious projects because ambitious projects don’t have an outline for people to fill in, just a final point to aim for, and probably more so at a company like Google – which could easily go the way of Pearson or Yahoo by becoming bloated and – than start ups who can leverage economies of communicative/collaborative sizing.

  5. Miles

    I don’t disagree with your explanation and would add to the fact — people who have bigger ideas and are willing to do ambitious things, don’t typically try and stay inside a company. They instead go out and work on their own stuff. A good example is Bret Taylor, who left to start FriendFeed which is in essence was the fore bearer of Facebook’s Feed. Is it disruptive in a x86 sort of a way? Not clear, but it is a new way of consuming information and that is bold enough. Okay just rambling, I hope you understand what I am saying.

  6. Love the Page quote.

    And, not to take anything away from Bret and the brilliant team at FriendFeed, but that was a pretty clear example of an incremental product. How was it the fore bearer of FB’s Feed — that existed years before. Am I missing something?

    1. Thanks Ev.

      Fair points, but I think the idea of becoming a central hub or the destination for multiple inputs from around the world was a new concept that came from FF and Facebook feed till then was mostly internal status updates. In many ways, I think Twitter of today is what FF wanted to be. Twitter has done a better job of that concept. But again, I like the idea of an individual being at the epicenter of the web rather services, that I find interesting.

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