The reality of “Exponential Growth”
I spend a lot of time contemplating short-termism in business and entrepreneurship. Most recently, I listened to this interview of Patagonia’s founder, who’s known for having strategically slowed his company’s growth rate...
Yvon Chouinard wanted Patagonia to remain self-funded — without the pressure of other people’s money — so growth had to slow from 50% CAGR to mid-teens if he wanted to afford inventory without outside capital. He says he was building a 100-year company, and when you think about the next 100 years, it’s an easy decision to eschew exponential growth today in order to maintain the brand/culture/ethos that’s required to last a century.
That’s real goodwill. ‘Do what’s right.’ ‘Don’t be evil.’ Whatever.
Yvon famously asked Patagonia employees to do more surfing during the work week as a way to tap-the-breaks of growth.
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Now, this is one anecdote that’s really hard to replicate in the tech/startup environment. Why is that? Well, most tech products and services are indefensible. There’s no intellectual property, no differentiation, and/or no barriers to entry, so it’s a game of thrones: a first-mover-advantage cum race-to-scale cum winner-take-all.
I’m not opposing DHH’s critique of “Exponential Growth.” Nor am I lecturing the Valley’s worship of it. I’m just illuminating the reality here: Everyone espoused the ‘it’s never been easier to start a startup’ maxim, but the benefits of that are counterbalanced by the reality that competition is plentiful [and ruthless].