The Saber-tooth Tiger Gene aka the Entrepreneur Gene

In my previous post I mentioned an idea concerning the level of disregard necessary to run a successful startup. If you don’t believe me, believe to this guy:

I’ve read studies that claim entrepreneurship is a form of social domination (can’t find the study online), most entrepreneurs are “A type” dominate people, otherwise they’d get crushed. I believe entrepreneurship is a form of social rejection. An entrepreneur rejects the options given to them, they reject the methods and protocols everyone else accepts. They create their own option, in the pursuit of creating better methods and protocols.

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”-George Bernard Shaw


To do this, you have to believe that YOUR idea is better than the best idea of EVERY SINGLE OTHER PERSON in the world. You have to believe you can turn that idea into reality. In other words, you have to be insane.

The insanity trait is rare for a reason. In caveman days it was sound advice to stay in the cave and stick with what you knew. It is beneficial to the species: if you stuck around you would work to make the caveman community better and to ensure the continuation of cavemankind. If you had some crazy idea about what was over the next hill or how you were going to travel into the swamp and collect mudfish with a new technology you invented, you were probably going to become saber-tooth tiger food or drown in quicksand. Either way, you would not survive. You see, I call it the “saber-tooth tiger gene” not because I think entrepreneurs are tigers, but because they are tiger food.

But sometimes, not often, a caveman would make it past the dangers and discover, nothing. Then get lost on the way back home and starve to death. Even less often, a caveman would make it past the dangers and discover new, more fertile lands. He would expand the reaches of his species, his personal risk paying off not only for himself, but for all cavemankind. But he is the lucky few of the few, the rest of his fellow risk inclined cavemen certainly fell prey to the dangers of the unknown. The rewards, though, are worth the risk. Imagine being the first caveman to discover BBQ. You would be the most popular caveman ever.

For millions of years, thousands of generations, this insanity gene persisted. It allowed some of us to abandon the ways of our species and follow our own great ideas. How it persisted, I don’t know. Out of a hundred born with the gene, perhaps only a handful would be successful. The large majority, risking everything and losing the bet, would be deprived of a comfortable, predictable life. For most of history those that failed died, along with their genes. It’s called evolution, survival of the fittest, or at least, just survival (what, did you think the flying spaghetti monster just waved his noodly appendage?).

Today, we don’t generally die if we take risks, but we don’t have it much easier. Culture tells us not to question authority or “rock the boat”. Those few unfortunate souls who, born destined to be the food of some apex predator in years past, are today corralled into a life of cubicles and “just playing it safe” by our “civilized” culture (and boyfriends or girlfriends). Most of the world has been explored. Space and the deep sea has a higher learning curve and entry requirements than past frontiers. Technology has made our lives so convenient that for years people have been predicting we’ve invented everything there is to invent.

Evolution has squeezed the insanity gene, culture has suppressed it, and now technology provides no incentives to use it.  What do those few among us with the gene do? We end up making crap like mobile games or thinking Snapchat is a good idea. Alternatively, we remove ourselves from the tech scene and put ourselves in mortal peril where we belong. We seek out the greatest dangers to our species, the largest problems. That is the only way, I think, we can awaken our insanity gene and put it to good use. There’s not many of us left, most have taken the blue pill, those that didn’t will likely become saber-tooth tiger food. But maybe, maybe, one of us will survive and succeed. Some call it insanity, I call it entrepreneurship.

Note: I use the word “he” and “caveman” in a gender neutral manner. There are plenty of cavewomen entrepreneurs out there.

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One comment

  1. […] Note: The insanity trait is rare for a reason. I call it the saber-tooth tiger gene. […]

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