On Dec 31, 2019, Paul Graham twote:
A secret for discovering great things: look for things that are said to have a “cult” following.
In my March 24th, 2020 blog, I sold my idea that Everybody Should Be A VC. Today I will give my reasoning on why you probably want to invest in a cult.
A cult may sound as something evil, but here is my definition: A Cult is A Global Consensus on building Sth.
A cult has a really clear and benevolent goal. People’s love for it is based on logical reasoning, not religious passion. Bitcoin is building a new form of the Fed. Tesla is Building a next-generation energy infrastructure. Microsoft, a computing machine for everybody. Apple, portable Internet.
How to identify a cult, what are the common characteristics? NO.1 A cult always has fanboys making videos on youtube like crazy, that is to say, outsiders love it like family. NO.2 A cult usually takes the form of a company led by a dictator. Think Apple, Microsoft before and Amazon, Tesla now. A dictator is the best way to get things done quickly, so I won’t invest in any company if it does not have a powerful and famous dictator. But exceptions do exist, Linux is not a company. Bitcoin is just an open standard without a dictator. NO.3 A little smell of politics. Young gen wants to change the status quo like always you know, now they find tech is more powerful than swords.
Anyway, Nothing can be more valuable than a global consensus. If you don’t feel this, what are you doing?
One million dollar question is what is the best way to get the consensus deployed.
Small is not beautiful. Allow me to plug my own startup experience. 10 years ago, I co-founded a small software consulting firm. We are still in business today. But it’s really hard to do anything innovative, every day we need to fight for survival. Maybe that’s why I love Peter Thiel’s book Zero to One because only big guys can afford a 10000 people design team to build the best OS, phones, or cars.
Why big won? The Internet has taken us to the Winner Take All era. It changed the way bits are moved from point A to point B. The logical next step is that it will change how we move atoms as well. People are not going to use the second-best search engine, likewise, people are not going to buy the second-best designed EV cars. The fact that lots of non-best companies can still grow and get big, is simply because of the insufficiency of information. I believe the Internet will solve this.
But good high tech companies are already very expensive, right? When it comes to investing real money, I will say be brave. Even though good companies already have a high valuation. If you love sth, buy it now, don’t wait. How big real good companies can be? Please read Rockefeller, J.P Morgan, and Henry Ford. In comparison with those guys, today’s Apple and Amazon are tiny. Right now, Amazon is selling anything, Tesla fanboys want to see Tesla become a company that builds anything. In the future, I believe there are companies that build and sell anything, think Umbrella in the movie Biohazard. Big data makes big organizations easier to manage, big does not mean slow and stupid.
Big companies will be replaced by open standards one day, but for the short term, I love monopolies and will only invest in the NO.1 guy in any industry.
IMHO now we have stepped in an era that you don’t need to work if you don’t need to worry about food for today. Most of your time should be spent on learning and joining a new trend, a new global consensus, a cult.
Firstly there will be no day jobs in the future anyway. Because AI and automation will produce things so efficiently, it’s easy to make a living in the future, as Elon Musk said: Everything will be very cheap. Putting big projects say autonomous cars aside, there will be no room for small life-style business either. Want to sell vegetables or open a local clothes shop? No way, Meituan, and Amazon will do that much more efficiently. So why not just spend more time on art/literature/politics or family life. If you want to do sth, do sth innovative and inspire big guys, the point is that don’t try to make a profitable business out of it, wait to be acquired or invested instead.
So we should take learning as our full-time job. Building sth new will always be risky. Some specific companies can fail. But that’s not a problem, as long as you have enough knowledge, and understand the industries, you can still make money. For example, if Tesla fails, we will vote with money to create the next Tesla, that should be easy. Software is eating the world, people who don’t understand technology won’t be qualified to be an investor. Right now, the mainstream people are still technologically illiterate, so spending time to be tech-savvy will bring huge advantages to us as investors. Let me give you an example, In September 2020, Tesla holds a Battery Day, Elon Musk did a fantastic job explaining the new technology Tesla will use to build new batteries, For engineers, that is an exciting huge plan. But because of too many tech terms during the presentation, mainstream media considered the event dull, Tesla Stock price dropped 30 percent afterward.
So let’s learn how the technology works in a big and general way. Learn enough first principles in both technology and humanity to make your own judgment.
After all, what’s is the message I am trying to deliver? Learning is more important than working because it’s machines that make all the wealth in the future, not human labor. Only big companies use technology most efficiently, so they will capture most of the value created by technology. Nowadays The secret to being rich is not to work, but to own part of some tech monopolies. Behind all the forms of cults and companies, it’s all about the match of people’s need to get things done and the technology to do it. Being super knowledgeable is the only way for you to see the big trends earlier and be part of it. Being the early supporter of some cults is the best way today to push humanity forward while getting rich.