I think I’ve always been fascinated by perpetual motion or perpetual machines. I think those of us who like efficiency or want to get/create/make something out of nothing (i.e. alchemy) is exhilarating.
We hear stories in the news like that — in our modern day, examples include the success of the mega, unicorn-like companies, Uber, Lyft, Airbnb to name a few.
They all have simple origins — the incubation of a single thought or single annoyance from a single or small group of individuals. It’s alchemy that something so small, to the point of being seemingly nothing, can create something to massive. Alchemy exists and successful startups appear to be an example reenforces our belief in it.
But basically, any success in business or in our personal lives are alchemic in nature. We were something before we become something else. It’s just that that something else isn’t as measurable looking forward than it is looking backwards. There’s also entropy, which is devolution and either can come in fast or come in slow but is surely to meet its demise sooner or later. This could either come from neglect, changes in the environment, changes in the trends or from random acts of intentional or situational violence.
In my case, I started a business/startup after being sweep away by a podcast from a guy who sold an accelerator or startup education program on the alchemic nature of building a business from nothing. That was actually and still is the tagline for The Foundation. Dane Maxwell was the person on the podcast and he made it so compelling that first-time non-technical founders can start their own software, SaaS business with no prior experience. That’s alchemy at its core.
It was this fascination of alchemy that lead me to join that startup program back in November 2014 where for the next year or so devoted a lot of time doing ideation, design, user interviews and all that good stuff to build a SaaS around.
And that I did with flying colours.
The business is still running today mainly on the back of all the early adopters and customers who supported the creation of the program from the beginning and who’s working capital help fund the first MVP of the software product. It wouldn’t have started any other way and having seen it happen in the front-row seat made me believe in power of alchemy in a startup.
The other aspect of alchemy, though it may be an adjacent topic, is a matter of output. While alchemy is concerned with how little goes into the process, the other side is how long that thing will stay and be of value. That’s where the idea of a perpetual machine comes in.
Knowing what seems to survive longest, likely will help better understand and have a better hit rate of what investments to make that are close to or near an alchemic, perpetual machine.
In the case of businesses, we have some research related to that. Look at the wiki page on the oldest survives businesses. You’ll quickly see a theme of what types of industries they are in. It’s not to say that those industries are ones to invest in or work in or start a new company in, but it does give insight to the longevity of businesses in this industries that are so tied to cultural, spiritual aspects. One thing that doesn’t change is human nature, culture.