Photo: Max Skibinsky with the author
“Every year a few thousand startups are incubated in Silicon Valley. Few of them will succeed; the rest will decay or outright fail. Yet there always seems to be room for one more billion-dollar company. Besides appearing seemingly out of nowhere, the most radically successful startups are also the most unpredictable ones. What force seems to create these massive sources of wealth that initially look like “bad ideas” to everybody beside their founders?”
This is the beginning of a famous blog article by Max Skibinsky. It may be hard to believe, but because of the ideas raised in this blog entry, Max was offered a partner position at Andreessen Horowitz, a top Silicon Valley Venture Fund. Whether you are interested in startups and angel investing, or you’re just beginning your experiments with blogging, this article will help you to assess what it takes to write an influential blog entry.
During a recent trip to Palo Alto, I asked Max to share the story behind writing this blog article, as well as provide some useful tips for my LinkedIn readers on how one can create a very successful article.
A great article must come from a great idea, right? Where do you find your great idea? Ask yourself: what is the one thing that you can’t stop thinking about? What drives you? What wakes you up in the morning?
For Max Skibinsky, a graduate of Moscow State University and the founder of a dozen successful startups, it was an obsession about why startups succeed or fail. He had an idea about this, drawn from a mathematical theorem called the Gödel Incompleteness Theorem.
Max believes that “Gödel’s theorem is not really about our limits: it’s about possibilities always waiting to be discovered.”
In the article, Max argues that similarly to strict formal mathematical systems which “always contain proof of their own incompleteness, the very act of formalization of reality undertaken by big established corporations will always contain within itself the seeds of its future disruption: true yet currently unprovable statements of the successful startups of the future.
Every startup will start in a totally unprovable, unpredictable new domain they can discover only empirically, by building and launching something with no assurances of success.”
“A new startup cannot be invented in the library of our past knowledge and existing systems,” explains Max. “It will always require an intuitive leap of faith or passion to cross the chasm of unknown and unprovable… Human intuition, unbound by limitations of pure formality, will always push forward, find new domains, and leverage the amazing powers of software formalization to bring the fruits of new knowledge to the rest of the civilization. Your intuition, just like your powers of formal deduction, is all you need to join in,” concludes Max.
The article impressed Andreessen Horowitz’ partners and led to a series of intensive interviews with Max. While Max’s extensive startup experience and work with angel investors obviously helped to make an impression, his ideas expressed in the article were the key to his great success.
Now stop for moment, unplug your analytical reasoning, and think: where does your intuition take you? What is your one incredible idea? Is it your new social venture that you want to launch? Or a new international project that excites you? Whatever it is, put it down on paper, so that you can see it, study it, understand it and eventually build it.
The Genesis of the Idea
Max began his odyssey of writing this article by giving a guest lecture at Singularity University in California, the mission of which is to “educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges.”
When Max gave his lecture, he spoke at length about the Gödel Theorem applications.
“I was fascinated with the fact that each startup comes and fills an unformalized niche and then begins to formalize it. Microsoft formalized its own niche – personal computers. Then, out of nothing – Google. And what happens next? Should we believe that these new IT giants will monopolize the whole world for eternity? Nonsense, because there are eternal possibilities around us. That creates an unlimited cascade process, because the mathematical process is permanent.”
After his talk, he realized he was on to something.
“All of a sudden, I noticed that this part of my lecture created the largest resonance among my audience. I thought, why don’t I work on this part and polish it further?”
It took Max another three years to develop an entirely new lecture just based on this part.
During these years that Max was giving this lecture, he noticed some particular patterns among his listeners. “Some of my listeners could not get it, they simply could not make sense of this. However, almost half of my audience were stunned and excited.”
The effect of Max’s lecture was such that some of his students would say: “Max, your lecture blew my mind, and now I’m rethinking my whole startup life!” Singularity’s students are in fact quite diverse in expertise and education, and yet they were in agreement that this lecture helped them reassess their understanding of the world.
Max began receiving requests – where can I read about your theory? Are there any articles or printed materials?
“In this very moment I understood that I had no choice but to write that article.” Ultimately, over 100,000 people read the article — a phenomenal result for a dry mathematical piece.
8 Useful Tips on Blog Writing Process from Max Skibinsky:
I asked Max to share his advice on writing an engaging blog, and here are Max’s tips for your next amazing blog post:
1. Focus on your core professional skills. What makes you special? What differentiates you from others?
2. Based on your expertise, find an interesting idea that will appeal to your focus audience.
3. Do not try to please everyone – write for those who would appreciate your content.
4. Sharpen the angle: dig deeper into the story. Find something unexpected.
5. Come up with your personal interpretation. Don’t be afraid to be bold.
6. Ruthlessly edit your draft. Leave only what matters.
7. Don’t wait years for perfection – it will never come. Publish your article.
8. Learn from feedback and continue to explore.
Do you need an elegant mathematical formula to have a great blog article? No, but you do need to be true to yourself and your core. Share your thoughts and ideas with the world.
Put it out there and don’t count the views – just keep on writing.
You might be on to something incredible…
Max Skibinsky is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor & start-up mentor. He is currently a Partner with Andreessen Horowitz. Max was founder and CEO of Hive7, a social gaming company known for its smash hit game “Knighthood” that has grown to 6M players on Facebook. In 2010 Hive7 was sold to Playdom/Disney. Later Max become one of the co-founders of Inporia that secured funding from YCombinator, SV Angels, Clearstone & NEA to launch number of consumer products that used machine learning algorithms for online and mobile e-commerce. Max is also a resident mentor of 500 Startups. Max holds a Master’s degree in theoretical physics from Moscow State University. When not designing, brainstorming, advising, and building startups, Max can be found flying in the general vicinity of Palo Alto airspace.
Andrey Gidaspov is a published author, international business expert, and rainmaker. He is passionate about connecting people and ideas, creating new social ventures and helping non-profits find new funding streams. Follow him on Twitter (@AndreyGidaspov) and check out his blog (www.gidaspov.com) for more useful tips on creativity, fundraising and marketing.