Make something that people want.
Everyday I see the Y Combinator motto hanging on the wall at the office. The motto is only five words, but the words urge us to create something. But we can’t simply create anything. Y Combinator reminds us that what we are creating is not just for ourselves but is something that should be desired by others. The process of making something that people want isn’t about coming up with a cool new idea and doing it before anyone else – it is about making something well.
Making something well requires deliberation. Premeditation. Design. Discovery. Refinement. Persistence. Making something well requires that you strive for excellence, rather than settle for mediocracy. Because if what you make isn’t beautiful, then people won’t want it.
Make something real.
I recently watched a TEDx Talk from 2013 given by Glenn Kelman in Chicago. In this talk Kelman contrasts “software companies” and “real world companies”, recounting the early days of Redfin and the dot-com bubble. Kelman focuses on differentiating software companies and real world companies, noting that only 12 of the Fortune 500 companies are “pure software” companies. Of the software companies only a few have long term financial viability (see dot-com bubble), and those that do tend to traverse the line he draws between software and real companies. The lesson from Kelman’s talk is to build something that has real world meaning, because the real world is what matters.
At the end of the day you can’t make something for everyone. You have to pick and choose who the people are you’re making “it” for, and I think it’s okay if you’re making it just for yourself. When you make something, you have to do it well and it should be real. But the most important thing is to make something.