More and more people these days are technology tinkerers. They’re messing around, trying new things, jumping from small project to small project, but never settling on and committing to one thing. It’s certainly easier and easier to tinker, which is great; it makes building stuff more accessible and less expensive. And that can lead to new innovations, ideas and startups. But beware of too much tinkering.
At Year One Labs we see quite a few tinkerers; people working on interesting stuff, but oftentimes it’s small in scope and they’re doing a ton of projects simultaneously. And not surprisingly, they rarely finish anything either. That makes it harder and harder to judge someone’s ability to execute and scale. It also throws up red flags around issues of commitment – and a startup is nothing if it’s not about commitment.
We all hit periods in our lives when we need to tinker. After Standout Jobs, I couldn’t commit to starting another company right away. So I did some consulting (and still do), while exploring options. And tinkering. It didn’t take me long to jump into my next project (Year One Labs), but even that affords me a bit of opportunity to tinker (and assuage my ADD) because we’ll be working on numerous projects at once.
The danger in tinkering is when you can’t get out of it. Tinkering may lead to fantastic stuff, and may even lead to starting a company, but it can also lead to endless tinkering. And there’s a big difference between a Tinkerer and a Founder.
Tinkering also tends to shrink people’s vision. Big vision is a good thing, even if you focus on executing in small chunks (think: minimum viable product.) There’s a duality there that has to be dealt with: big audacious goals & vision vs. getting shit done and executing. Tinkerers definitely struggle with big vision, and they also aren’t as focused as need be on getting shit done.
So if you take a moment and look at what you’re up to: are you a Tinkerer or a Founder? And if you’re a Tinkerer, are you ready to make the jump and become a Founder?