Working Together As Small Companies (pt 2)
Let’s game it out.
You and I both have a company. Yours has analytics locked down. Mine has user interface locked down. Both of us have our own clouds, a few clients and partners, a few cofounders. I’m about to make an analytics backend for my dashboard, and you’re about to make an interface for your analytics backend. We are going to end up making the same thing because we share the same end dream.
We’re both running the numbers:
Why would I give up a lot of equity for a little? Why would I stop the plan my investors invested in to assign resources to this other endeavor where I only get some of the revenue? Why don’t they just join my company and give up their own? Oh wait, then I’d have to give up too much equity… What do they have that I couldn’t just make myself? Will my investor go along with this?
There are a lot of reasons why it doesn’t work out but ownership, equity, exploitation of revenue and direction of the project are at the top of the list. A lot of us want more engineers, but we want them working on our goals and not taking all the profit for their own company’s overhead.
The game theory is not solved.
And yet if we’re all just making the same things then we’re widening the field of competition, lowering our individual chance of success, reducing our potential velocity and reducing our chances of competing against much larger organizations who already have all of the metrics we covet.
“What keeps someone from just coming and taking this and deploying it themselves?”
It’s complicated. If the project is sufficiently developed to be a basis for something else, it probably will be. But that’s the point— to create value.
The only way to align the ships is to solve the competitive and collaborative needs at the same time. There must be more value in winning together than winning apart. We need to clearly game out standard outcomes for revenue, acquisition, investment, and generally interfacing with the old system. We must be willing to take a risk of vulnerability and leave a bit of the spoils of war on the table for our collaborators. We need to act in our own best interest, and we need our own best interest to be aligned with the collective interest of our groups.
It’s important to work out the economics and brass tacks, but it’s also important that there is a deeper alignment.
There are a lot of reasons to make things, and we are all balancing different forces. Money, status, glory, being recorded in the history books are all obvious reasons to want to put something out there. But there are also deeper things that, if clearly elucidated, could align us.
There are missions that have a lot of purpose. In Web3, this is sovereignty and custody, as well as interoperability. In AI, this is the democratization of AI and proliferation of just-works AI for everyone.
It’s not just lip service. We live in a world where the outcomes of our successes could have real impact on the future for a lot of people. If we make products that help everyone get value out of AI and maximize that value, and we do it in the open and with a mind for care and safety, we are doing a lot more than making money — we’re pushing our entire civilization toward better outcomes. We’re making sure that our children have a better life than us. Abundance is our ideal outcome.
Purpose is the aligning force that transcends companies. If enough people subscribe to an idea and guide their actions by it, it becomes a movement.
We need to solve the brass tacks. We need to make sure that outcomes are fair, that investors are well taken care of and that we produce value which can be converted into revenue. At the same time, we are part of something so much bigger than all of that. We are the tip of the spear, and we can shape the direction of flight. This alignment of purpose is the critical piece for building the pirate fleet.
Here are the conditions for working together:
We have to be willing to take the risk
We have to stand to gain more than we stand to lose
We have to recognize that we are very small and have very big enemies
We have to be willing to fight and lose for something greater than ourselves
We have to be willing to trust and invest in demonstrating trustworthiness
I have many more thoughts on this, but I believe it is time to test it in production. I would love to know your thoughts. What are we missing? What are my blindspots? If you’re in the AI space and want to figure out how we can work together, I’m willing to try, even if it’s hard.
Find me at https://discord.gg/magickml or twitter @gpt4bot