A return to discipline

I've seen two links in the past couple of days that reminded of the fact that it feels like society was able to do more with less in the past; while the tools that were available were less advanced than those we have today, large projects were able to be completed rapidly.

The first link was written by Patrick Collison, and is a collection of projects where ambitious goals were reached rapidly.

Some of the interesting examples:

The Empire State Building. Construction was started and finished in 410 days. Source: Empire State Building.
Disneyland. Walt Disney's conception of "The Happiest Place on Earth" was brought to life in 366 days. Source: Under Construction: A look inside Walt Disney’s Disneyland.
Amazon Prime. Amazon started to implement the first version of Amazon Prime in late 2004 and announced it on February 2 2005, six weeks later. Source: The making of Amazon Prime.

Contrast this to the recent construction of the Elizabeth Line in the United Kingdom, which has taken 13 years to build, and still hasn't reached completion. At the same time, it's gone over-budget.

The second link is a list of examples of technology startups who have achieved outsized outcomes, relative to the size of their team.

Notion has raised money at a $2 billion valuation with under 50 employees. Source
Instagram had 13 employees when they were acquired by Facebook for $1 billion. They had 30 millions users at the time. Source

These two lists feel timely at the moment, for a number of reasons:

  • We're at a time of mass layoffs at many of the largest tech companies. We're going to see a return to operational discipline, which will reset expectations of the outcomes that can be achieved with significantly smaller teams.
  • As I wrote about in Build Log 2, new technology and innovation opens up new forms of leverage. With that, we're seeing extraordinary examples of companies of one, where revenue is in the millions or tens of millions with a single person working on the business.

I feel this trend is going to continue over the next couple of years, building more with less, and we're going to understand properly the enormous leverage that technology can provide when used thoughtfully.

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