Sunday, December 02, 2007

Scam Nation U.S.A.

So I was sitting back thinking about this cool new product I'd like to create, and how great it'd be if I could round up some venture capital and put together a team to do it. But of course, that isn't happening, because I'm not the kind of person who can sell heaters to Eskimos, much less a new gadget to dubious venture capitalists. Then there's the possibility of somehow working my current company into building that product even though it really has little to do with their current product line except insofar it's in the same basic industry. But that would require me to engage in a nasty bit of internal warfare that I'm ill-suited to pursue. At that point it hit me what my biggest drawback is as a potential leader of an enterprise: I'm not a con artist capable of scamming people.

The whole art of creating a new business in the post-dot-com era is akin to working a complex con. You need a face man, which obviously isn't me -- let's face it, penguins are cute, but not exactly what shouts "stability!" to a venture capitalist. You need a plausible scheme to Make Money Fast, the participation in which I'm dispositionally incapable of doing. You need to make promises that you know can't be kept, and you need to be able to fool potential customers into buying your product even though reality is that it'll be years before your product is as stable and feature-filled enough to be a slam-dunk must-buy purchase in the industry even if it's innovative and "good enough". This last bit -- the need to scam people into buying your product -- is the most important bit. Most new businesses in the high-tech industry fail because the venture capitalists run out of patience before you have a product compelling enough that customers eagerly seek it out without having to be scammed into buying it. Marketing, not product, is the primary issue causing the failure of most new businesses.

In other words, the heart of the modern American economy has nothing to do with producing a good product for a good price. It all has to do with how good you are at scamming other people out of their money. The American economy, in the end, is one big con job. And like all con jobs, this one seems to be crumbling under the weight of the many, many scams needed to make it go around, but everybody is just closing their eyes and pretending that if they just wish hard enough, the con will turn out to be real.

As for my cool new product, I'll just have to think about it for a while longer, I suppose. Maybe someday I'll run into a con artist good enough at running the scam that I can actually get it built. Until then... (shrug).

-- Badtux the Geek Penguin


  1. How many people know who Paul Allen and Steve Wozniak are?

    Having the ideas doesn't get it done unless you don't mind the fact that other people made the really big bucks off your ideas.

  2. Paul Allen is a billionaire businessman so I do not know what you're talking about there. I'm more the Woz type than the Allen type. Woz found his scam artist (let's face it, Steve Jobs is the world's best con artist), but Woz, while well off, is certainly not one of the 100 richest men in America like Paul Allen is.

    My problem with the high-tech con artists I've run into thus far is that they want to scam the talent that creates their product just as much as they want to scam the investors and general public, meaning that we don't end up getting along. Sigh! Oh well, maybe in another lifetime, or not.

    - Badtux the Geeky Penguin

  3. Paul Allen was the coder at Microsoft. He wrote the early stuff that worked and established the brand, Bill was and is the business side. Paul has gone out and invested in a lot of things, like Burt Ruttan's X-prize winning spacecraft, a new radio telescope, etc. Most people outside of Northern California know him at all, and few people realize he was the creative mind behind Microsoft.

    He bailed out because he was marginalized and coding was turned over to temps.

    Allen has backed more than a few losers because he liked the idea, even if it didn't pan out.

    I ran into Paul and Woz in their early days when Paul was hustling a Z-80 card for Apple II and Woz was pushing the Apple II in all its glory at San Diego Computer Society meetings. The good old days of Wordstar and VisiCalc.


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