Showing up at a gold rush with a shovel and a pan

I’m a pretty big fan of Dave Pell’s NextDraft newsletter (subscribe and read my interview with him and Andrew Norcross!). It’s a mix of tech and current events, and today he talked about the bubble in tech. I’ll show the quote in context but it’s the last part that really got me thinking (emphasis mine):

While our industry is subject to the same cyclical swings as others, it’s important to note the differences between now and when we were partying in 1999: There are way more customers on the Internet, the big players have massive reach and very real revenues, technology is now much better able to support our ideas, and mobile has turned the Internet into a non-stop, always-on money machine. That said, we are in another bubble. But this time it’s not a financial bubble. It’s a psychological one. The psychological bubble makes you think that because you can code a photo app or design an algorithm to get me to the airport a little quicker, that also qualifies you as an expert on every other topic. The psychological bubble prevents you from seeing what role timing and serendipity play in your bombastic financial success. The psychological bubble makes you forget what I always like to remind people about the Internet business: Showing up at a gold rush with a shovel and a pan doesn’t make you a genius.

WordPress, to a much lesser degree than some tech sectors in Silicon Valley, had a gold rush moment. Our space had spans of gold rush years, really.

But something bigger I’ve noticed is that it’s easy to see success because there’s lots of opportunity and some were really just in the right place at the right time — with shovel and pan. When the rush is over, gold prospecting is a harder business; it doesn’t make it a bad one necessarily, but it’s not the same as a rush.

Of course, as one responder on Twitter noted, that’s why the shovel and pan selling business is a pretty good one.

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