In case you’re the last person to read Marc Andreesen’s It’s Time to Build article: here you go.
As the most recent person, but probably not the last person, to write an open letter to you, Marc, I’ll cut to the chase: I like your words. I do. But I wish you had concluded with a tangible opportunity for those with money to join you in a commitment to build. I’ll get to the necessary commitment in a second, but first let me digress on the state of American business.
My response is certainly more than a critique - it’s more an addendum. In your words:
“Our forefathers and foremothers built roads and trains, farms and factories, then the computer, the microchip, the smartphone, and uncounted thousands of other things that we now take for granted, that are all around us, that define our lives and provide for our well-being. There is only one way to honor their legacy and to create the future we want for our own children and grandchildren, and that’s to build.”
I believe the call for Americans to build is necessary to secure our future. The real question is: what kind of future do we want? We can all agree we want a future where America leads the rest of the world, and so we must build new things - because we must innovate or we can not lead. But how do we lead? Who leads? What future will make us all proud?
I have three ideas I’d like to add to your proposal: a call to action, a guideline, and a view of how to build.
A Tangible Call to Action (Or Lack Thereof)
You’ve called on our polarized political parties to find a way to build from their different angles. I tend to agree. But should you not have called upon those that have a faster path to this action - those with cash? The wealthy and those that invest their money? They have the wherewithal to invest in the “doers.”
America simultaneously rewards - and punishes - corporations on their ability to deliver quarterly results (read: growth). To wit, most private enterprises live and die by what ownership cares about or can afford (and let’s be honest, most private companies struggle to get past short term results). And startups - oh, man, the startups - which probably have the most pressure of all to deliver explosive growth in a short period of time.
The common denominator - short term results. Disruption. Upheaval. Not durable businesses.
What if the current titans of industry and business collaborated to create a legacy that lasts for generations? That is to say - not look for but 1 year returns, not 5 year returns, not 10 year returns, but 30 year investments that deliver benefit to the next generation?
How impactful would it have been if you had, yourself, made a monetary commitment and called others to join you in your pursuit of a long term future? Earnest money on a bright new future. That would have been something, Marc.
A Guideline: Balance first. Everything else, second.
As leaders, we can’t build a future at the expense of the people who build it or set a cultural precedent for future building. This is Elon’s downfall - he wants to build a future at the cost of present well being. Present well being however has an enormous impact on the health of future generations.
Anxiety is rampant and it’s spilling into our children (suicide is now the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10-24). What is the point of a future if we can’t enjoy it with those we love? If we manifest a culture of building without forethought, it will either break down and fail, or make life miserable for everyone. I see this all the time: leaders live and function in a way that is almost certainly unhealthy for them - and nearly impossible without the wealth they possess. This pattern of living filters down through the organization.
This kind of investment means employing more people and expecting fewer short term returns. It points yet again to sustainable investments that require long term commitments that may even exceed the investors’ lifetimes. We can build without hurting ourselves and the people around us. This is not either or. It just won’t return the kind of immediate financial results that are currently required. Let’s be an example now and build a culture that is sustainable for generations.
The guideline is this: healthy, private, balanced lives as we build or forget about it, man. I don’t want that shiny future life.
Ideas on Building
Okay I’ve given my thoughts on how you could step up. Let’s get to the good stuff. Let’s talk about what to build.
Toyota is pretty much building the future you described at Mt Fuji.
Here’s a thought - let’s invest in American ingenuity. Let’s build something here in America and let’s build something approachable. My co-host, Phillip, mused about future cities and our lost love of “progress” in his recent Insiders essay. I agree.
- “The city of the future” might not actually even be a city but rather a large set of advanced small communities. Because of advances in homebuilding, remote working, supply chain/distribution, last mile, manufacturing and more, we can rediscover life that is truly neighborly.
- Let’s use one of our greatest natural resources - we have land. We don’t have to build up like Singapore is required to do. Let’s go out and not up. There are thousands of small American towns ripe for restoration and progress. Why is there not more money going into home builders like ICON? Only $26m in Series A funding for this innovative home builder who is finding ways to significantly reduce the cost of homes?
- Let’s invest in communication systems that will give us a much better experience than Zoom or Google Meet (which are really just iterations of meeting software we’ve been using for over 10 years). Augmented and virtual reality could shine in this respect now. Or we could look to pioneers in lightfield and hologram tech like Leia.
- Let’s put more AOU (accessory office units) on properties and deck them out for optimized working and education conditions.
- Let’s distribute learning centers across the country. Let’s build coworking spaces in town centers. We can work and learn in proximity to people who are doing completely different things than we are - and become their friends, which will enrich who we are and what we bring to the table.
- Let’s distribute tech jobs across the country.
With lower property and housing costs, the effectiveness of wages will change. And trust me, having moved from Seattle to the midwest back to Seattle - housing is the biggest factor in cost of living.
I lived in a mid-sized city in the midwest for over three years and I met some super intelligent and talented people there. I believe the “talent gap” is a myth - instead it’s the “documented talent gap” that keeps businesses from recognizing opportunities in smaller communities. Let’s find ways to change this.
Spreading out could also - perhaps more than any other initiative - eliminate the digital divide. It may even help the left and right find common ground. Diversity through distribution.
Future Commerce’s call to action
Future Commerce wants to highlight a future we can all be proud of - one that enables commerce entrepreneurship. Commerce connects people. We want to document and shine a spotlight on initiatives by a coalition of companies and investors who are ready to commit to a new kind community, built with technology, human connection, and affordability in mind.
We believe that commerce will play a huge role in this community - and that forward thinking brands will understand this opportunity.
You’re right. It’s time to build, Marc. But let’s build something that’s meant to last, right here in America, and let’s set the next generation up for success by investing in them and their future.
Want to join us to build? Hit me up. firstname.lastname@example.org