Taken on its face, this is pretty bad advice, especially for technologists. Do you really wish you were still writing DOS bookkeeping apps in Pascal, because that's what you were good at?
Think hard about the things that actually make you excel at what you do, it's probably much less concrete. Richard Branson started several totally different businesses - but he's sticking to his core competencies of being a ridiculously good showman and businessman, and being able to get shit done.
I'd figure a good gigolo might be good at understanding how to give people what they want.. which translates pretty well to anything.
I think the true analogy isn't to the programmer who's good at writing in a specific language. It's the skills behind conceptualizing software and developing its architecture that does translate well. If you're a great programmer, find someone who has knowledge of a specific subject area and combine your skills to create a great application that targets that body of knowledge.
Your final point about someone understanding how to give people what they want is the true skill. Its these true skills, like the analytical mind of a programmer, that can translate into different subject areas, you just need to find a way to acquire knowledge and apply that with your skills to another topic.
What about Richard Branson? He's done _exactly_ that. Throughout his career he has frequently started new businesses in totally new markets. Now his empire includes trains, planes, spaceships(!), record shops, music publishing, banking, telecommunications etc etc. In fact I would argue that people that have that business "spark" could pretty much make a success of any market if they were minded to.
Whilst of course it's sub-optimal to discard or under-utilise what knowledge or experience you currently have, it's probably even worse to not keep learning new things. And more often than not, business experiences are transferable. OK you may not know the technicalities of a new field, but these can be learnt.
Basically: a gigolo for tourists is probably not the best source for business wisdom.
His expertise is marketing and branding. Until he starts a business that doesn't sell to consumers (even very rich ones who pay for spaceship rides) and isn't branded "Virgin", he's still parlaying off of what he knows how to do.
The very fact that people know the name "Richard Branson" and that he's personally involved in all these ventures is a big part of it.
Edit: It's not a criticism--it's hard to succeed in different fields--but the basic idea of the OP, which is to expand your business ventures along the lines of what you know how to do, still applies to Branson a lot more than he's a counterexample of it.
Yes you're right he's leveraging a known brand. but marketing and branding - that _is_ business.
The point about staying in one industry is not about your technical knowledge, it's about your relationships. These are hard to build, and are the major barrier for all new ventures in any business: building your customer base, your sales channels, reaching out. That's tough.
Sure I know it's one example, and I have no idea how the numbers would stack up if some kind of research was done on this. All I'm saying is that this is not necessarily good advice, and from a learning perspective potentially counter-productive.
But look, let's keep this in perspective. This is a blog post by an entrepreneur with a new start-up. This is nothing more than press, publicity, visibility, mind-share, whatever, designed to get people talking, discussing, linking. So to be taken with a pinch of salt at best.
Sure - it's anecdotal. But right off the top of head, how about Duncan Bannatyne, Peter Jones, Alan Sugar.
> And I think a guy that figured out how to make $100,000 a year is a pretty good source of business advice.
It wasn't a 100k/year. It was a 100 total, over several years, and that's only his word for it. These things tend to be exaggerated. But anyway, so what if he did? I could probably make a 100k a year selling my body, but I'd rather not.
I used to be on one of the biggest drug dealers on my side of the city and I now make iPhone apps (among other ventures).
I worked my way up to selling about 2 kilos of crack a week, starting from "20-pieces" (little rocks that weight 0.2 grams, sold for $20).
I'm definitely not proud of myself for doing so, but those few years have taught a me a lot about running a business (including money management, cultivating relationships, "hiring" personnel, and the economics of supply and demand) and gave me much of my entrepreneurial spirit.
As somebody who is attempting to transition from my old industry into web development, I am biased, but I disagree.
I was a good ranch hand before I was a good fine dining waiter. I then proceeded to become a good engineer, and now I am proceeding to try to be a good web developer. My life would have been a lot more boring, had a stayed a ranch hand, or a waiter, or an engineer.
In calculus, you learn about local maxima and local minima. Your life can have these as well. You sense that you're at a maxima, and if you proceed in any other direction, you will go down. Some people refuse to take any step that feels like a step down, even if the path can take them to a higher local maxima than they were at before.
I was a bad waiter before I was a good one. I was a bad engineer before I was a good one. I'm not a great web developer yet. If your ego can handle going from good to bad, I think you shouldn't stay on your little local maxima, trembling that you'll get knocked off it by events you can't control. Jump off of it of your own free will.
Indeed. Who's to say I won't win the lottery tomorrow? We only have experience and statistics. If you're willing to throw those out and just say "who's to say this can't happen!", than you are not in control of your life, you're just blowing in the wind and hoping.
His view is pretty conservative. Sometimes the interesting thing about apps written from another, outsider perspective is that they approach it in creative ways most people in that niche have not yet thought of. I think the author is parroting the figure of speech "Jack of all trades, master of none" or perhaps the french "Qui trop embrasse, mal etreint"
I think 'Let the cobbler stick to his last' is more appropriate. He's not suggesting the dealer or webapp creator wasn't excellent at what he did: just that he shouldn't expect to be any good at what he does now (or intends to do).
The biggest flaw I see is his argument is that five years ago, there were basically no mobile app developers. So these folks (even the very successful ones) all had to start somewhere, likely with little to no mobile experience, and they learned along the way. When you're working in new markets with new tech which requires new skillets, sometimes that's what you need to do.
That I would agree with. The article states Success in an area is not transferable. You need concrete domain knowledge.
That just seemed a bit too restrictive. Transferable skills can be very non-specific. A drug dealer might now more about word-of-mouth marketing than a CS whiz kid who writes very smooth iPhone apps.
WoW even borrows the first-hit-is-free, by encouraging each purchaser to share the software with their friends. The entire universe of WoW is a streamlined treadmill, for keeping players addicted. From depreciating gear, inflation, achievements, status symbols... it has it all.
Tongue-in-cheek, I know. But I can see how combining the drug dealing experience with video games could lead to insights such as Blizzard and WoW.
Great post. There is research done at the MiT that also supports the fact that intelligent people (ppl with high iqs) find it difficult to make choices and stick to them even after having known which choice is most likely to benefit them the most.
His examples are wrong though, it's much better to move from being a drugdealer into other legal businesses, even with the cost of learning, than to stay where you are. So yes, drug dealers should make iPhone apps (or buy realestate etc...)
it's much better to move from being a drugdealer
into other legal businesses, even with the cost of
Exactly. The question to ask is whether what you know now is what you should know tomorrow (or, is what you knew yesterday still appropriate for today).
And then decide if the cost of transferring is worth it.
A problem with sticking with what you know and what has brought you success in the past is that times and markets change.
The gigolo probably should open a bike shop. But hire someone to run it. Running a bordello is likely to get his ass in jail. Which also suggests that not every move to a related field makes sense. Going form one dubious activity to another dubious activity might not be the best business choice.
One issues I've seen with developers who want to have a business is that they tend to stick to what they know, while not checking to see if what they know lends itself to a sustainable business.
Good all-round knowledge in solving problems that users have every-day by using techology is 100% transferable between all computer and non-computer solutions. If you are good at finding niches in the market where users need help, how the hell is that no transferable?
Now maybe writing webapps does not mean I can write great mobile apps, need some training.