In my many meetings with fellow tech entrepreneurs, I’ve noticed that very few actually have a technology background. Even more surprising, I’ve found that a disproportionate number of them (especially the successful ones) majored in philosophy in college. It got me thinking, why is it that so many excellent tech entrepreneurs were originally philosophers?
Just to name a few of these folks so you get the picture, there’s Amol Sarva (Peek), Ken Reisman (TLists), Damon Horowitz (Aardvark), Patrick Byrne (Overstock), Josh Snyder (Treeline Labs), and of course Chris Dixon (Hunch). And that’s just off the top of my head!
Quite an impressive bunch! I’ve come up with a few hypotheses on how philosophy training makes entrepreneurs like these so formidable:
- Philosophers seek to structure the world. So when confronted with all of the uncertainty and turbulence of a startup, they are able to structure a sensible plan that their teams can execute.
- Philosophers are deeply analytical. Rather than run their businesses on pure gut instinct, they look for evidence. By applying their analytical powers, they are able to reduce business risk.
- Philosophers strive to find deeper truths. To hire the best people for your team, you need a compelling vision. Philosophers try to identify these deeper truths, and they articulate them to attract the best talent.
- Philosophers like to argue. Intense debate is a central feature of most philosophy classes. This gives philosophers an abundance of confidence in their points of view, which helps them raise money from investors.
- Philosophers aren’t afraid of risk. After all, they chose to study philosophy in school! Anybody who goes into a field knowing there are no job opportunities must love taking a gamble.
Reading over my list, I almost wish I had studied philosophy as an undergrad! If you are still in school and want to be a tech entrepreneur, maybe it’s time to head on over to the philosophy department….