Maker vs. Thinker

Why you should prioritize strategy over making

The other day I saw a tweet from a founder. Who the tweet was from is not as important as what it said.

“I only work with makers” -Anonymous Founder

At first glance this idea makes total sense, but the more I think about it I realize that it isn’t the right perspective.

Unless you trip and fall into a unicorn, startups are all about strategy. You have minimal resources yet you still need to position the company in a way that you’ll be able to:

  • Attract customers that you are not qualified to service at an insane rate of growth
  • Hire staff that you can’t afford and retain them through cycles of hope and terror
  • Cover short and long term liabilities with cash that you don’t have

Doing this all would be easier if you had cash but starting up means you are usually cash poor and time rich.

So how do you apply your time?

This is a strategic question and has nothing to do with “making things”.

Elon isn’t on the assembly line welding piping on rocket engines. He may be deeply involved in the engineering and design conversations but he isn't doing code reviews for the navigation software. Instead he points at a little red dot in the sky, talks about the importance of being multi planetary, and pulls together the resources that his team needs to hit the dot with a rocket.

  • Open source the Tesla patents = Strategy to drive demand for electric cars
  • Release plans for the Hyperloop = Strategy to position himself as a tech visionary
  • Consolidate Solar City under Tesla = Strategy to be a dominant energy company

Make if you want, but don’t play yourself. Startups are all strategy.