未来的互联网创业 The Future of web startups – Paul Graham

Fri, 28 Aug 2015 09:43:16 GMT

作者: 阮一峰

日期: 2008年1月24日

根据Paul Graham的简历,他是一个计算机博士,一个程序员,一个风险投资家。

但是,在我眼里,他其实是一个思想家。他的很多观点深刻地启发了我。

比如,他说,程序员就是当今时代的手工艺人,其他行业的人都必须依附于流水线的工业化生产才能谋生,只有程序员可以靠个人的手艺谋生。再比如,他说,互联网公司就像蚊子,唯一的竞争优势就是数量多,作为种族可以生存下来,作为个体九死一生。

(This essay is derived from a keynote at FOWA in October 2007.)

(本文根据作者在2007年10月Future of Web Apps 会议上的主题演讲改编而成)

There’s something interesting happening right now. Startups are undergoing the same transformation that technology does when it becomes cheaper.

眼下有一件有趣的事情正在发生。初创公司正在经历着一种转变,它很像发生在成本降低时期的技术转变。

It’s a pattern we see over and over in technology. Initially there’s some device that’s very expensive and made in small quantities. Then someone discovers how to make them cheaply; many more get built; and as a result they can be used in new ways.

这种转变,我们在技术领域已经一再见到。一开始,新设备非常昂贵,只能小批量生产。然后,有人发现了降低成本的方法,生产数量开始增加。最终,这种设备找到新的用途。

Computers are a familiar example. When I was a kid, computers were big, expensive machines built one at a time. Now they’re a commodity. Now we can stick computers in everything.

电脑是一个大家熟悉的例子。当我还是孩子的时候,电脑体积巨大,价格昂贵,一次只能生产一台。现在,电脑只是一种普通商品,我们可以把电脑附加在所有东西上。

This pattern is very old. Most of the turning points in economic history are instances of it. It happened to steel in the 1850s, and to power in the 1780s. It happened to cloth manufacture in the thirteenth century, generating the wealth that later brought about the Renaissance. Agriculture itself was an instance of this pattern.

这种模式已经有很长历史了。在经济史中,可以找到许多例子,关于技术变迁的转折点。比如,19世纪50年代的钢铁,18世纪80年代的发电。13世纪的纺织业,正是纺织业产生的财富,带来了文艺复兴。农业本身也是一个例子。

Now as well as being produced by startups, this pattern is happening to startups. It’s so cheap to start web startups that orders of magnitudes more will be started. If the pattern holds true, that should cause dramatic changes.

现在,初创企业也在经历这种模式,或者说这种模式正在影响初创企业。因为互联网创业的成本如此之低,所以初创企业的数目将呈指数式增长。

  1. Lots of Startups 无数的创业者

So my first prediction about the future of web startups is pretty straightforward: there will be a lot of them. When starting a startup was expensive, you had to get the permission of investors to do it. Now the only threshold is courage.

关于未来的互联网创业,我的第一个预言很简单:无数人将会创业。以前创业很昂贵,你不得不找到投资人才能创业。而现在,唯一的门槛就是勇气。

Even that threshold is getting lower, as people watch others take the plunge and survive. In the last batch of startups we funded, we had several founders who said they’d thought of applying before, but weren’t sure and got jobs instead. It was only after hearing reports of friends who’d done it that they decided to try it themselves.

甚至就连这个门槛也正在变得更低,因为人们不断看到周围其他人创业成功。在上一批我们资助的初创企业中,有几个创始人说,他们以前就想创业,但是下不了决心,不敢放弃现在的工作。只有当他们看到朋友们创业成功,他们才下决心亲自创业。

Starting a startup is hard, but having a 9 to 5 job is hard too, and in some ways a worse kind of hard. In a startup you have lots of worries, but you don’t have that feeling that your life is flying by like you do in a big company. Plus in a startup you could make much more money.

创业是艰难的,但是一份早9晚5的工作也是艰难的,在某种意义上,甚至比创业还艰难。你自己开公司,你会因为很多事情担惊受怕,但是你不会感到虚度生命,在一家大公司里打工,常常会有这种感觉。而且,创业可能会使得你挣来多得多的钱。

As word spreads that startups work, the number may grow to a point that would now seem surprising.

当越来越多的人相信创业是可行的,初创企业的数目就将增长到一个现在的人们会感到难以置信的程度。

We now think of it as normal to have a job at a company, but this is the thinnest of historical veneers. Just two or three lifetimes ago, most people in what are now called industrialized countries lived by farming. So while it may seem surprising to propose that large numbers of people will change the way they make a living, it would be more surprising if they didn’t.

眼下,我们觉得有一份工作是正常的生活模式,但是这是最不可靠的历史假象。在现在所谓的工业化国家里,仅仅二三代人之前,大多数人都是靠务农为生。如果将来许许多多人改变谋生的方式,这也许会令人感到惊讶,但是如果没有发生这种改变,会令人感到更惊讶。

  1. Standardization 标准化

When technology makes something dramatically cheaper, standardization always follows. When you make things in large volumes you tend to standardize everything that doesn’t need to change.

当技术极大地降低一件东西的成本之后,标准化就会接踵而至。当你大批量生产某种东西,你就会将那些固定不变的部分标准化。

At Y Combinator we still only have four people, so we try to standardize everything. We could hire employees, but we want to be forced to figure out how to scale investing.

在我的风险投资公司中,我们现在还是只有4个人。所以,我们试着将一切都标准化。我们可以雇用更多的人,但是我们想强迫自己,找到有效投资的方法。

We often tell startups to release a minimal version one quickly, then let the needs of the users determine what to do next. In essense, let the market design the product. We’ve done the same thing ourselves. We think of the techniques we’re developing for dealing with large numbers of startups as like software. Sometimes it literally is software, like Hacker News and our application system.

我们经常告诉创业者,尽快地发布一个最简版本,然后让用户的需求决定下一步该做什么。从根本上,让市场设计产品。我们自己也是这样做的。我们想象自己,正在开发一种处理大量创业者的技术,就像开发软件一样。有时,它确实就是软件,比如Hacker News和我们的风险投资申请系统。

One of the most important things we’ve been working on standardizing are investment terms. Till now investment terms have been individually negotiated. This is a problem for founders, because it makes raising money take longer and cost more in legal fees. So as well as using the same paperwork for every deal we do, we’ve commissioned generic angel paperwork that all the startups we fund can use for future rounds.

我们正在着手标准化的最重要的事情之一,就是投资条款。到目前为止,投资条款都是一对一商定的。这对创业者来说,是一个麻烦,因为它使得融资周期更长,法律费用也更多。我们对每一个交易都使用同样的文件,我们还授权让我们资助的创业公司,将通用的融资文件用于以后的融资。

Some investors will still want to cook up their own deal terms. Series A rounds, where you raise a million dollars or more, will be custom deals for the forseeable future. But I think angel rounds will start to be done mostly with standardized agreements. An angel who wants to insert a bunch of complicated terms into the agreement is probably not one you want anyway.

一些投资人依然坚持制定个性化的投资条款。在可预见的未来,成熟期的企业在融资100万以上美元时,仍然需要个性化的合同。但是我想,早期的天使投资合同,大部分都将使用标准化合同。一个想在协议中插入一大堆复杂条款的天使投资人,可能根本不是你需要的那种投资人。

  1. New Attitude to Acquisition 对待并购的新态度

Another thing I see starting to get standardized is acquisitions. As the volume of startups increases, big companies will start to develop standardized procedures that make acquisitions little more work than hiring someone.

另一件我看到正在标准化的是并购交易。当大量的初创企业出现后,大公司开始发展一套标准化程序,使得并购就好像雇用一个人那样简单。

Google is the leader here, as in so many areas of technology. They buy a lot of startups– more than most people realize, because they only announce a fraction of them. And being Google, they’re figuring out how to do it efficiently.

Google是这方面的领导者,正如它是很多技术领域的领导者一样。它买进了许多初创公司—-比大多数人意识到的还要多,因为google只公开了其中一部分的交易。站在Google管理者的角度,他们会考虑如何使并购更有效。

One problem they’ve solved is how to think about acquisitions. For most companies, acquisitions still carry some stigma of inadequacy. Companies do them because they have to, but there’s usually some feeling they shouldn’t have to–that their own programmers should be able to build everything they need.

他们已经解决的一个问题,就是如果看待并购。对于大多数公司,并购意味着自身有缺陷。那些进行并购的公司,往往是因为不得不如此。他们会有一种感觉,觉得本来可以避免并购的,觉得内部的程序员应该能够开发出他们需要的任何东西。

Google’s example should cure the rest of the world of this idea. Google has by far the best programmers of any public technology company. If they don’t have a problem doing acquisitions, the others should have even less problem. However many Google does, Microsoft should do ten times as many.

Google的例子对整个有这种想法的世界,是一帖解药。Google有着比任何上市公司多得多的优秀程序员。如果连Google都觉得并购没有什么不好意思的,那么其他人就更不应该感到不好意思了。说实话,同Google的并购数量相比,微软的并购数量本应该多十倍的。

One reason Google doesn’t have a problem with acquisitions is that they know first-hand the quality of the people they can get that way. Larry and Sergey only started Google after making the rounds of the search engines trying to sell their idea and finding no takers. They’ve been the guys coming in to visit the big company, so they know who might be sitting across that conference table from them.

Google没有对并购感到不好意思的一个原因是,他们很清楚地知道,通过这种方式,他们得到的人才的质量。Google的创始人Larry和Sergey,之所以会创立Google,是因为他们向其他搜索引擎兜售他们的想法,结果都遭到拒绝。他们的这种拜访大公司的经历,使得他们知道坐在会议桌另一头的人,可能有着什么样的质量。

  1. Riskier Strategies are Possible 必须使用风险更大的策略
    Risk is always proportionate to reward. The way to get really big returns is to do things that seem crazy, like starting a new search engine in 1998, or turning down a billion dollar acquisition offer.

风险总是与回报成正比。得到大笔回报的方法,就是去做那些看上去很疯狂的事情,比如1998年的时候开办一家新的搜索引擎,或者拒绝一笔10亿美元的并购报价。

This has traditionally been a problem in venture funding. Founders and investors have different attitudes to risk. Knowing that risk is on average proportionate to reward, investors like risky strategies, while founders, who don’t have a big enough sample size to care what’s true on average, tend to be more conservative.

在风险投资业,这是一个传统的矛盾。创业者和风险投资家对待风险有不同的态度。因为知道风险大回报大,所以投资家喜欢风险高的策略,而创业者不像投资家有那么多投资,从而可以得到平均回报,创业者通常会更保守。

If startups are easy to start, this conflict goes away, because founders can start them younger, when it’s rational to take more risk, and can start more startups total in their careers. When founders can do lots of startups, they can start to look at the world in the same portfolio-optimizing way as investors. And that means the overall amount of wealth created can be greater, because strategies can be riskier.

如果创业变得很容易,这个矛盾就会消失。因为创业者会在更年轻的时候,就开始创业,所以他可以承受更大的风险,在他们的一生中可以创办更多的企业。当创业者能够创办多个企业,他们就会像看待证券组合那样,看待整个世界,他们就会向投资家那样优化他们的行为方式。这意味被创造出来的总财富将变得更多,因为创业策略变得风险更大了。

  1. Younger, Nerdier Founders 更年轻、更技术化的创业者

If startups become a cheap commodity, more people will be able to have them, just as more people could have computers once microprocessors made them cheap. And in particular, younger and more technical founders will be able to start startups than could before.

如果创业的成本降低,那么更多的人将会去创业。这就好像芯片成本降低以后,更多的人会购买计算机一样。尤其是,更年轻和更技术化的创业者,将能够更早地开始创业。

Back when it cost a lot to start a startup, you had to convince investors to let you do it. And that required very different skills from actually doing the startup. If investors were perfect judges, the two would require exactly the same skills. But unfortunately most investors are terrible judges. I know because I see behind the scenes what an enormous amount of work it takes to raise money, and the amount of selling required in an industry is always inversely proportional to the judgement of the buyers.

过去,创业成本很高,你不得不说服投资家资助你创业。这和创业本身要求的技巧大不相同。如果投资家很懂行,那么创业和说服投资家就是一回事。但是很不幸,大多数投资家不懂行。我知道这一点,因为我一直在幕后,我很清楚融资所要求的大量准备工作,投资家越不懂行,你的准备工作就越多。

Fortunately, if startups get cheaper to start, there’s another way to convince investors. Instead of going to venture capitalists with a business plan and trying to convince them to fund it, you can get a product launched on a few tens of thousands of dollars of seed money from us or your uncle, and approach them with a working company instead of a plan for one. Then instead of having to seem smooth and confident, you can just point them to Alexa.

幸运的是,如果创业成本降低,就有另外一种方法说服投资者。你可以不带着商业报告书就去见风险资本家,你也不用说服他出钱,你只需用从我们这里得到的或从你叔叔那里得到的几万美金作为启动资金,先做出一个样品。你给投资家展示的是一个正在运作的公司,而不是一份报告书。你也不用装得很有信心,你只需给他看Alexa上的网站排名就行了。

This way of convincing investors is better suited to hackers, who often went into technology in part because they felt uncomfortable with the amount of fakeness required in other fields.

这种说服投资家的方式,更适合于黑客们。因为他们喜欢技术的部分原因就是,他们对其他领域的虚情假意感到不自在。

  1. Startup Hubs Will Persist 创业园区将继续存在

It might seem that if startups get cheap to start, it will mean the end of startup hubs like Silicon Valley. If all you need to start a startup is rent money, you should be able to do it anywhere.

如果创业成本降低,表面上,硅谷那样的创业园区似乎没有存在的必要了。要是创业的启动成本只是一点租金,那么你应该在任何地方都可以创业。

This is kind of true and kind of false. It’s true that you can now start a startup anywhere. But you have to do more with a startup than just start it. You have to make it succeed. And that is more likely to happen in a startup hub.

这种想法不完全正确。你确实能够在任何地方创业。但是,你要做的并不仅仅是开始干活。你必须让你的项目获得成功。在创业园区,你更可能获得成功。

I’ve thought a lot about this question, and it seems to me the increasing cheapness of web startups will if anything increase the importance of startup hubs. The value of startup hubs, like centers for any kind of business, lies in something very old-fashioned: face to face meetings. No technology in the immediate future will replace walking down University Ave and running into a friend who tells you how to fix a bug that’s been bothering you all weekend, or visiting a friend’s startup down the street and ending up in a conversation with one of their investors.

我曾经反复思考这个问题。我似乎觉得,创业成本的降低反而使得创业园区变得更重要了。创业园区就像其他任何产业的中心一样,它的核心作用非常老式:就是可以面对面的聚会。你在马路上散步,碰巧遇到了一个朋友,他告诉你如何解决困扰你整个周末的一个程序问题,或者你走到马路对面朋友的公司做客,与他们的一个投资者随便聊聊,这些事情在近期是没有任何技术可以取代的。

The question of whether to be in a startup hub is like the question of whether to take outside investment. The question is not whether you need it, but whether it brings any advantage at all. Because anything that brings an advantage will give your competitors an advantage over you if they do it and you don’t. So if you hear someone saying “we don’t need to be in Silicon Valley,” that use of the word “need” is a sign they’re not even thinking about the question right.

是否要加入创业园区,这个问题就好像是否要接受投资一样。问题的关键不是你需不需要它,而是它是否有用。如果一样东西是有用的,你的竞争对手采用了它,而你没有,这就意味着你的竞争对手将比你有优势。所以,当你听到有人说:”我们不用待在硅谷”,”用”这个词就是一个信号,表明他们还没有正确地思考这个问题。

And while startup hubs are as powerful magnets as ever, the increasing cheapness of starting a startup means the particles they’re attracting are getting lighter. A startup now can be just a pair of 22 year old guys. A company like that can move much more easily than one with 10 people, half of whom have kids.

创业园区还是像以前一样是一块强有力的磁石,随着创业成本的降低,它所能吸引的粒子变得越来越轻了。现在一个22岁的年轻人就能创业。这样的小公司行动起来,比那些10个人、且半数员工有孩子的公司,快捷多了。

We know because we make people move for Y Combinator, and it doesn’t seem to be a problem. The advantage of being able to work together face to face for three months outweighs the inconvenience of moving. Ask anyone who’s done it.

我们知道这一点,因为我们让创业者搬入我们自己的创业基地,所以我们有亲身体验,创业园区对我们来说,似乎没有什么坏处。能够面对面一起工作三个月,有很多好处,这超过了搬家带来的不方便。你随便问一个参与者就知道了。

The mobility of seed-stage startups means that seed funding is a national business. One of the most common emails we get is from people asking if we can help them set up a local clone of Y Combinator. But this just wouldn’t work. Seed funding isn’t regional, just as big research universities aren’t.

种子期的初创公司有很高的流动性,这意味着为他们提供启动资金,是一项全国性的业务。我们收到的一种最常见的Email,就是人们询问我们是否帮助他们在当地建立一个类似的创业园区。但是,这是做不到的。种子期的融资不可能是地域性的,这就像大型研究性大学不可能是地域性的一样。

Is seed funding not merely national, but international? Interesting question. There are signs it may be. We’ve had an ongoing stream of founders from outside the US, and they tend to do particularly well, because they’re all people who were so determined to succeed that they were willing to move to another country to do it.

如果种子期融资是全国性的,那么它会不会是全球性的呢?这是有趣的问题。有迹象表明,它可能是全球性的。我们一直不断地有来自美国之外的创业者,他们往往表现得非常好,因为他们全部都是那种下定决心,一定要成功的人,所以他们愿意到另外一个国家来创业。

The more mobile startups get, the harder it would be to start new silicon valleys. If startups are mobile, the best local talent will go to the real Silicon Valley, and all they’ll get at the local one will be the people who didn’t have the energy to move.

初创公司的流动性越高,再建一个新的硅谷的可能性就越低。如果初创公司可以自由流动,那么最好的一些人才就会前往硅谷。因为如果这些公司不搬家,那么它们在当地只能雇到那些没有动力前往硅谷的人。

This is not a nationalistic idea, incidentally. It’s cities that compete, not countries. Atlanta is just as hosed as Munich.

顺便说一句,这个问题与国家无关。它只是城市与城市之间的竞争,而不是国家与国家的竞争。美国的亚特兰大和德国的慕尼黑一样让人精疲力竭。

  1. Better Judgement Needed 需要更好的判断力

If the number of startups increases dramatically, then the people whose job is to judge them are going to have to get better at it. I’m thinking particularly of investors and acquirers. We now get on the order of 1000 applications a year. What are we going to do if we get 10,000?

如果初创企业的数目急剧增长,那么那些负责判断它们的人,不得不改进自己的工作。我特别对投资家和收购家进行了思考。我们现在每年收到的申请在1000份左右。那么当这个数目变成10000的时候,我们应该怎么做?

That’s actually an alarming idea. But we’ll figure out some kind of answer. We’ll have to. It will probably involve writing some software, but fortunately we can do that.

这实际上是一个令人担忧的问题。但是我们将会找到某种形式的答案。我们必须找到答案。这可能会涉及编写一些软件,很幸运的是,我们能够做到这一点。

Acquirers will also have to get better at picking winners. They generally do better than investors, because they pick later, when there’s more performance to measure. But even at the most advanced acquirers, identifying companies to buy is extremely ad hoc, and completing the acquisition often involves a great deal of unneccessary friction.

收购家也必须改进自己挑选赢家的本领。他们通常比投资家做得好,因为他们根据公司后期的表现进行挑选,那时有更多的证据可以衡量表现。但是即使是那些最高级的收购家,找到收购目标也是极端没有规律,完成收购通常包括大量不必要的摩擦。

I think acquirers may eventually have chief acquisition officers who will both identify good acquisitions and make the deals happen. At the moment those two functions are separate. Promising new startups are often discovered by developers. If someone powerful enough wants to buy them, the deal is handed over to corp dev guys to negotiate. It would be better if both were combined in one group, headed by someone with a technical background and some vision of what they wanted to accomplish. Maybe in the future big companies will have both a VP of Engineering responsible for technology developed in-house, and a CAO responsible for bringing technology in from outside.

我想大公司会逐渐设置首席收购官(chief acquisition officers)这个职务,由他们负责挑选收购方和发生交易。目前,这两个只能基本上是分开的。通常,有希望的初创企业是由程序员发现的。如果一家大公司决定要收购这些企业,那么交易会移交给公司的管理层去谈判。这两个职能由一个团队来完成,效果会好得多。团队的领导人应该具有技术背景,了解自己想要完成的目标。也许在未来,大公司会同时有两个高级管理职员,一个是负责内部技术发展的副总裁,另一个是负责将外部技术带入公司的首席收购官。

At the moment, there is no one within big companies who gets in trouble when they buy a startup for $200 million that they could have bought earlier for $20 million. There should start to be someone who gets in trouble for that.

目前,在那些大公司里,还没有人为一些决策失误负责。当他们可以在2000万美元收购的时候,他们没有同意收购,反而等到2亿美元时才去收购。从现在起,应该有人对这样的决策失误负责。

  1. College Will Change 大学将发生变化

If the best hackers start their own companies after college instead of getting jobs, that will change what happens in college. Most of these changes will be for the better. I think the experience of college is warped in a bad way by the expectation that afterward you’ll be judged by potential employers.

如果最好的技术人才在上完大学后,没去找工作,而是去创业,那么大学也将因此发生变化。大多数变化是好的。我想,大学教育被一种假设大大地扭曲了,这种假设是毕业后你的能力将由未来的雇主判断。

One change will be in the meaning of “after college,” which will switch from when one graduates from college to when one leaves it. If you’re starting your own company, why do you need a degree? We don’t encourage people to start startups during college, but the best founders are certainly capable of it. Some of the most successful companies we’ve funded were started by undergrads.

一个变化是”离校”的涵义,这个词将从指”毕业”,改为指”离开学校”。如果你正在创业,学位有什么用呢?我们不鼓励人们在校期间创业,但是最好的创业者肯定在校期间就有这个能力了。我们资助过的一些最成功的公司,是由肆业生创办的。

I grew up in a time where college degrees seemed really important, so I’m alarmed to be saying things like this, but there’s nothing magical about a degree. There’s nothing that magically changes after you take that last exam. The importance of degrees is due solely to the administrative needs of large organizations. These can certainly affect your life–it’s hard to get into grad school, or to get a work visa in the US, without an undergraduate degree–but tests like this will matter less and less.

在我的成长年代,大学学位看上去真的很重要,所以我经常会潜意识地说出类似的观点,但是学位并没有魔力。学位的重要性仅仅在于大公司行政管理上的需要。它们肯定能够影响你的人生—-没有本科学位,你很难申请研究生院入学,或者得到一张美国的工作签证—-但是这种衡量标准的重要性将变得越来越小。

As well as mattering less whether students get degrees, it will also start to matter less where they go to college. In a startup you’re judged by users, and they don’t care where you went to college. So in a world of startups, elite universities will play less of a role as gatekeepers. In the US it’s a national scandal how easily children of rich parents game college admissions. But the way this problem ultimately gets solved may not be by reforming the universities but by going around them. We in the technology world are used to that sort of solution: you don’t beat the incumbents; you redefine the problem to make them irrelevant.

除了学位的重要性变得越来越低,你上的是哪一所大学也将变得越来越不重要。创业时,判决你的是你的客户,他们不关心你在哪里上大学。所以在一个初创企业的世界里,名牌大学将越来越不再被视为是一个门槛。在美国,富人子弟可以轻易进入名牌大学,这是国家的丑闻。最终解决这个问题的方法,也许不是改革大学的入学制度,而是名牌大学将会变得不重要。我们这些技术领域的人,都很习惯这种类型的解决方法:不是要求负责者改变,而是重新定义问题,使得跟他们脱离关系。

The greatest value of universities is not the brand name or perhaps even the classes so much as the people you meet. If it becomes common to start a startup after college, students may start trying to maximize this. Instead of focusing on getting internships at companies they want to work for, they may start to focus on working with other students they want as cofounders.

大学最大的价值,并不是学校的名字,或者你所在的系所,而是你遇到的那些人。如果离校创业很普遍,那么学生可能应该尽早适应这一点,不再只关心到那些他们想工作的公司里找到实习岗位,而是关心到那些其他同学创办的公司中工作,并成为共同创办者。

What students do in their classes will change too. Instead of trying to get good grades to impress future employers, students will try to learn things. We’re talking about some pretty dramatic changes here.

学生在班级里的行为也可能发生变化。学生将不再关心获得高分,来打动未来的雇主,而将开始学习一些真正有用的东西。我们在这里谈论的是一些真正巨大的变化。

  1. Lots of Competitors 许许多多的竞争者

If it gets easier to start a startup, it’s easier for competitors too. That doesn’t erase the advantage of increased cheapness, however. You’re not all playing a zero-sum game. There’s not some fixed number of startups that can succeed, regardless of how many are started.

如果创业变得很容易,那么你也很容易遇到竞争。但是,这改变不了成本下降带来的趋势。你参与的并非一个零和游戏。成功者的数量并没有上限,不管有多少人创业。

In fact, I don’t think there’s any limit to the number of startups that could succeed. Startups succeed by creating wealth, which is the satisfaction of people’s desires. And people’s desires seem to be effectively infinite, at least in the short term.

事实上,我认为成功者的数量是没有任何极限的。初创公司要取得成功,就必须为社会创造出财富,来满足人们的欲望。而人类的欲望实际上是无限的,至少在短期中看来如此。

What the increasing number of startups does mean is that you won’t be able to sit on a good idea. Other people have your idea, and they’ll be increasingly likely to do something about it.

创业者数量的增加,意味着你不能抱着一个想法不动。其他人也会想到你的创意的,并将其投入实践的可能性会变得越来越大。

  1. Faster Advances 更快地前进

There’s a good side to that, at least for consumers of technology. If people get right to work implementing ideas instead of sitting on them, technology will evolve faster.

上面这些变化会带来一个好的结果,至少对技术的消费者来说是这样的。如果人们正确地实践了创意,而不是仅仅坐着描述创意,那么技术就会更快地进步。

Some kinds of innovations happen a company at a time, like the punctuated equilibrium model of evolution. There are some kinds of ideas that are so threatening that it’s hard for big companies even to think of them. Look at what a hard time Microsoft is having discovering web apps. They’re like a character in a movie that everyone in the audience can see something bad is about to happen to, but who can’t see it himself. The big innovations that happen a company at a time will obviously happen faster if the rate of new companies increases.

某些革新只是一段时间内在一个公司的内部产生,就好像进化论中的”间断平衡说”(punctuated equilibrium,指短时期内骤变,然后在长时期内保持稳定)一样。有些创意太具有颠覆性,所以大公司根本连想都不会想到。比如一旦网络应用程序变得流行,微软公司的日子会变得非常难过。这种情形就像所有观众都意识到,电影中的某个角色将会遭到不幸的事件,但是人物本身却对此一无所知。如果新公司的数量不断增加,那么那些发生在一个公司内部的革新,其出现的速率将明显变得更快。

But in fact there will be a double speed increase. People won’t wait as long to act on new ideas, but also those ideas will increasingly be developed within startups rather than big companies. Which means technology will evolve faster per company as well.

但是,事实上,这里有一个双重的速度增加。一方面,人们不会再坐等,会更快地将创意投入实践,另一方面,初创公司比大公司有更多的创意。这意味着,不管是大公司还是初创公司,技术的发展都变得更快了。

Big companies are just not a good place to make things happen fast. I talked recently to a founder whose startup had been acquired by a big company. He was a precise sort of guy, so he’d measured their productivity before and after. He counted lines of code, which can be a dubious measure, but in this case was meaningful because it was the same group of programmers. He found they were one thirteenth as productive after the acquisition.

大公司真的不是一个能够快速做事的地方。我最近遇到一个创业者,他的初创公司刚刚被一家大公司收购。他是一个数字感觉很强的人,所以他衡量了在收购前后公司的效率。他计算了代码的行数,这个指标不能算很准确,但是在这个案例中是有意义的,因为都是同一组程序员写出来的代码。他发现,收购后写出的代码只是收购前的十三分之一。

The company that bought them was not a particularly stupid one. I think what he was measuring was mostly the cost of bigness. I experienced this myself, and his number sounds about right. There’s something about big companies that just sucks the energy out of you.

那家收购他们的公司并不是一家特别差的大公司。我想他衡量出来的,主要就是大型化的成本。我自己也有类似的经历,他的数字听上去和我的感觉差不多。大公司里有一些东西,会让你根本没办法发挥自己的能量。

Imagine what all that energy could do if it were put to use. There is an enormous latent capacity in the world’s hackers that most people don’t even realize is there. That’s the main reason we do Y Combinator: to let loose all this energy by making it easy for hackers to start their own startups.

想象一下,如果人们的能量能够全部发挥出来,那会是怎样的情景。全世界所有技术人才的极大一部分潜在能量,没有得到发挥,大多数人甚至还没有意识到这一点。这就是我们创办自己的风险投资公司的主要原因:解开束缚能量的重重限制,使技术人才能够更容易地去创业。

A Series of Tubes 一系列的管道
The process of starting startups is currently like the plumbing in an old house. The pipes are narrow and twisty, and there are leaks in every joint. In the future this mess will gradually be replaced by a single, huge pipe. The water will still have to get from A to B, but it will get there faster and without the risk of spraying out through some random leak.

现在的创业有点像在老房子里修水管。这些水管狭窄弯曲,每个结点上都有漏洞。在未来,这堆乱七八糟的水管将逐渐被一整根暂新的水管取代。水流依然将从A点流到B点,但是速度将变得更快,并且也不会在每个漏洞上喷出水花。

This will change a lot of things for the better. In a big, straight pipe like that, the force of being measured by one’s performance will propagate back through the whole system. Performance is always the ultimate test, but there are so many kinks in the plumbing now that most people are insulated from it most of the time. So you end up with a world in which high school students think they need to get good grades to get into elite colleges, and college students think they need to get good grades to impress employers, within which the employees waste most of their time in political battles, and from which consumers have to buy anyway because there are so few choices. Imagine if that sequence became a big, straight pipe. Then the effects of being measured by performance would propagate all the way back to high school, flushing out all the arbitrary stuff people are measured by now. That is the future of web startups.

这将改善许多事情。如果有一根又大又直的管子,那么就很容易评估一个人的表现,这种力量将会反馈影响到整个系统。表现永远是最终的衡量标准,但是在现在的这种老式水管系统中,衡量人们的标准大多数时候都与表现无关。所以我们现在的世界就是这样的一个世界,高中生们认为必须得到好的成绩,然后进名牌大学;大学生们认为必须得到好的成绩,然后打动雇主;雇员们在公司里的大部分时间,都浪费在办公室政治中;消费者们不得不购买他们能够得到的商品,因为很少有其他选择。想象一下,如果世界变了,变成一整根的大水管。可以根据人们做出的成绩,来判断他的价值,这种效果就会一路反馈,直到高中,一路上将现在那些老一套不合理的评价人们的标准都冲刷得干干净净。这就是未来的互联网创业。