Entrepreneurs teach VCs, not the other way around. And I was lucky early in my career to back Seth Godin, who taught me a lot. When I met Seth, he was writing books and building a web company. I backed that web company, Yoyodyne, which exited to Yahoo! a few years later. But books were always Seth's passion and he's written a bunch of them. He's also deconstructed the book publishing business and pushed it to do things that were considered unacceptable. I recall when he put out a free pdf of one of his books six months before the book came out. And increased the book's sales numbers in the process. He did that in the 90s.
It is old news now that Seth is doing a Kickstarter for his next book. I've thought for a long time that authors should take their advances from their avid readers on Kickstarter instead of from book publishers who will lock them up and hold them back. In something like four days, Seth has taken an advance of $216,000 and there are 26 days to go. Who knows, he might get a seven figure advance if this keeps going like this.
I am sure Seth is happy to take the big advance he is getting. But I am also sure that he is doing this, like everything he does, to make a bigger point. And in Seth's words, this is the bigger point:
But what is the book about?
It's about the connection economy and the value created when we give up doing what we're told (and avoiding what we fear) and start making art instead. The art of important work, of making a ruckus and of inventing the future.
Making art is writing a song and recording it with your friends in your bedroom. Doing what we are told is getting a label deal for your music. There is a big difference and they are not at all related to each other.
Making art is a fundamental part of being human. Consuming art is a fundamental part of being human. I am doing the consuming part as I write this. I may be doing the making part too but I am not sure.
The digital revolution has made it easier for all of us to make art and consume art. It is challenging the notions of "doing what we are told." And while I am biased because of our investment in Kickstarter, I think that Kickstarter is opening up the possibilities for artists to make the art they want to make and take it to market the way they want to to as well.
Once Seth gets his advance, he is free to do what he wants with his book. He will have thousands of people that he will need to send the book to (the folks who backed his project) but beyond that he can do what he wants. He can make the book freely available. He can decide never to publish the book. He can make it into a movie. He can make a ruckus and invent the future. It's all up to him. Artistic freedom and control.
And in a weird way, that investment I made in Yoyodyne back in the mid 90s allowed me to understand Kickstarter. Seth started programming my brain with new ways to think about making and commercializing art way back then. I've taken those new ways of thinking to other places, made them my own, and so when Perry came to see me back in 2009, I was open to his ideas in ways that I might not have been had I not had the experiences I had.
There are special entrepreneurs who teach you so much. Seth and Perry are two of them. I've been blessed to work with dozens in my career. Like Seth and his big advance, it is not the money that is the big payoff in the work that I do. It is the people and the ideas that enter your life and change your world. It is the art of important work, of making a ruckus and of inventing the future.