Thursday, October 3, 2013

Crazy ideas

I love Legos. Always have, always will.

Back when I was younger, I could build anything with Legos. If I could dream it up, the parts I needed were somewhere in that never-ending bin of childhood glee. Despite being nothing more than a few pennies of plastic, these magic bricks synergistically assembled into futuristic spaceships, mechanized armies, towering skyscrapers and much more.

Sadly, I grew older. Reality began to encroach on my well-laid plans for conquest of the universe. My insatiable desire to create never left, and I turned to programming. In fact, these new constraints added to the challenge, and I enjoyed creating all the more for it. The best part this time was that it was so wonderfully real - I could run my program, watch all the parts come together and do something.

The funny thing about all of this is that the desire to build, while strong, was not the root of my creative drive. The ideas are what truly propel me. I've always had crazy ideas. Some are outside the boundaries of reality, but most are on the edge of just-might-work-if-the-planets-align possibility.

I've been working on one. And the planets have aligned - I've won the Listerv Lottery.

You see, while I'm currently a programmer at a San Francisco startup, I'm a transplant. I hail from the wilds of beautiful upstate New York.

Somehow, Silicon Valley ended up in San Francisco, which is horribly expensive. I think that this hurts long-term innovation - ideas that require a lot of time to mature are discarded in favor of get-rich-quick startups that don't really benefit humanity. Worse still, founders of companies bail during inevitable hard times as the point where the money runs out quickly approaches.

Since it's not quite feasible to ask landlords to charge less, I've been looking around for alternate solutions and found one in Rochester, NY. Ever since the collapse of Kodak, housing prices have been falling. One can buy a decent 3 bedroom 1 bath house for $26,000. (That's not the down payment, that's the whole thing!)

So here's the idea: Buy several Rochester houses and bring in entrepreneurs with crazy ideas of their own to work out of them. Every dollar goes further, so ideas that take time to mature are more viable. This isn't intended to replace San Francisco, but to help entrepreneurs get up to speed before moving on*.

I have always wanted to build things. As I've grown, so too have my aspirations. While I lack the capacity to embark on this adventure (financially), perhaps some of you readers may be able to help? If you're interested, I’d love to hear from you.

If you interested in starting a company like the ones I’ve been describing (or just getting into programming) shoot me an email. I (and the rest of Techendo) can help point you in the right direction.

* Technical readers will notice that this is essentially a startup accelerator. You're right, Paul Graham and YCombinator have been a big influence on me. This one will focus on low-burn bootstrapping.

Randall Koutnik
San Francisco

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