“Uber for Weed,” “Amazon for Home Loans,” “Turbotax for Divorce”. For many, living in San Francisco tends to serve as a crash course in what it means to look like an entrepreneur. Startups flaunt edgy names that replace i’s with y’s, i.e. Gyft and Lyft, or decide that it’s edgy enough to leave vowels out altogether, like Blockr and Flickr. Founders, it seems, can be found by the dozen drinking Philz coffee in hoodies adorned with logos that you nor anyone else recognize. Credit where it’s due though, many manage to delve a little deeper, realizing that beneath the Snarf-adorned t-shirts and unkempt beards lay an amazing breadth of life lessons. This is a culture that takes the obviously apparent — nobody’s going to feel comfortable renting the spare room in some random person’s home for a night — and blows it open with revolutionary ideas.
Of course there are some obvious negative side effects; the influx of tech to the Bay has a strong association with exorbitant rent prices and the dawn of the artisan pickle industry. The same force that’s come armed with it’s fixies and soylent meal replacement has also formed a catalyst for thought innovation that’s found its way to the Silicon Beaches, Meadows, and Glenns that seem to be sprouting up in every town with a bar that sells Moscow Mules. That thought innovation, sparked by icons like Peter Thiel (Paypal) and Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), has become almost as ubiquitous as the gentrified burritos that seem to dominate my Instagram feed, though it’s a little bit harder to find.
The HalfBakery is a concept — a place to spotlight this thought innovation, beyond that which normally makes it to common circulation. Million and billion dollar ideas are easy to find, and too little effort is made in the pursuit of bringing forth less than successful efforts. This publication is a home for the idea that you’re not quite certain you want to move forward with, an experiment that you’re not sure is going to work, or a business that has outright failed. The HalfBakery is built on a theory that innovation’s most potent lessons do not neccesarily lay in stories of glowing successes, but in the less publicized, real experiences of thinkers and experimenters.
Call it what you’d like, founder fever, Zero to One-ness (Credit: Peter Thiel), or something more clever, conversations between . People tend to constantly break into the possibilities of “what if I built…,” hoping to land on that one idea that hits all the right tumblers and lands a unicorn their laps. Anyone who’s taken it a step further — doing research, asking friends what they think, or forfeiting some sum of money in pursuit of his venture know that it’s never as easy as the idea.
“Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.” — Sue Grafton
Ideation, a tongue-in-cheek term for organized thinkin’ bout stuff, is vital to the aspiring Elon Musk, Larry Paige, Steve Jobs, Hoffman, or Thiel. It is a skill that improves with practice, thought breeding thought, and presents the opportunity to develop a skill that is even more important— execution. An idea is worth only about as much as the bar napkin that it’s scrawled on until some action is put towards its realization. There is nothing more satisfying than spawning an idea, breathing life into it, and watching as it takes up on its own legs and finds its way into the hands of people who you didn’t pay or beg to participate in your fantasy. Take it from me, if you’re still reading by this point in the post, I may just have done something right, and that gets me pretty excited.
The HalfBakery is a clearinghouse for overlooked entrepreneurial thought. It’s a place to share processes, ideas, successes and failures alike. Much like one can’t hope to become a successful author without reading any books, understanding the nature of business success, and failure, is instrumental to the successful perpetration of innovation. The HalfBakery is a hub for stories of both stumbling blocks and shortcuts, with the goal of paving a faster route to equipping the everyday entrepreneur with the tools vital to harnessing problems and deploying them as businesses.
Like many a successful venture , I have created The HalfBakery in response to a pain I’ve seen in the marketplace of the portrayal of “startup culture” (unfortunately, many unsuccessful ventures also pursue this same noble cause). Coverage of the Googles and Apples of the world is easy to find, but reading about the billion dollar success stories that were “perfectly executed” by prodigal full stack dev business gurus with the intent of gaining actionable advice can be an experience akin to drinking from a fire hose. The grand, sweeping advice like “Work hard” and “Dedicate yourself” that can be gained by listening to an Elon Musk interview, 200 steps ahead of me when it comes to success in business, tends to be far less valuable than an hour and a couple of beers with a founder who is 5 steps ahead of me and is willing to help direct my next 2.
Most businesses fail, most never have the opportunity to be worth billions of dollars, so why does there seem to be so much over-backwards-bending to cover the name of the latest Android OS name when there is so much meaningful substance hiding in plain sights loosely locked away in the heads of the person sitting beside you? I believe there to be a need for such coverage, and in my own weird and meta way The HalfBakery is itself an example of the sort of venture that I am trying to put on a pedestal.
…and so the call goes out. To everyone on Stack Overflow figuring out why their program works on your friends machine, but not yours. To the guy that has been bent over a project in his garage so long that his back is starting to ache. To the woman who’s been sitting at her desk for the past year writing and rewriting her business plan, wondering if her business idea has legs — first of all, stop doing that for a quick minute and read this post (you are? oh, cool), and second, I want to hear from you. I’m confident that others do too. Prove me right or prove me wrong, that’s the whole point!
If you’d like to contribute to The HalfBakery, please feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org