Elon Musk & The Midwit Meme – Dalton Caldwell and Michael Seibel | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Elon Musk & The Midwit Meme – Dalton Caldwell and Michael Seibel".
Introduction To The Idiot Approach
What is the idiot approach? (00:00)
This is the beauty of the midwitt meme is the genius in the idiot come into the same conclusion. So what is the idiot approach? Like that's actually how you can divine the genius approach is you're like, what would an idiot do? - Everyone can reach for the idiot approach. - Yeah. - Everyone has the intellectual capacity to reach for the idiot approach. - If I didn't know anything. - This is Michael Sible with Dalton Caldwell. Today we're gonna talk about how overthinking is sometimes a founder's biggest mistake. So Dalton, this video was triggered by this amazing meme that you made on fundraising advice. But before we get to the meme, 'cause I think it's like one of the best memes I've ever seen for fundraising advice. - For fun reason. - Let's start in general. Let's start in general.
Discussing The Pitfalls Of Overthinking And The Mindset For Success
How and when can overthinking be bad? (00:52)
How can overthinking be bad? And when can overthinking be bad? - Yeah, I mean, I think that what people think being a founder is, is what they saw in like watching the Facebook movie or popular television where, you know, you're like coding a lot and, you know, you're making deals and screwing over your friends. Just kidding. But in reality, it's a lot of feeling lost and being not sure what to do and feeling stressed out a lot. And you're worried all the time. And so you tend to overthink everything. And every decision you kind of think in circles over and over and over again, 'cause you don't have a boss, you don't have constraints when you're a startup founder, right? There's no one really telling you what to do, so you're on your own. And so when you, the experience of being a startup founder, it's to always be overthinking everything.
Advantage to be young (01:47)
- In this way, there's a bit of an advantage to being young, right? - Yeah, like you and I experienced this ourselves as founders where we were young when we first started. And this is the beauty of not knowing anything. The beauty of not knowing anything is that you think everything is easy. And none of the innumerable reasons why something might be hard or your startup might fail even occurs to you. You're like, "Oh yeah, I'm 22. "Like everything's easy. "I can figure this out." Right? And so again, this is like the mid-wit meme, right? Where if you don't know anything, your approach looks a lot like the approach of people that are really good founders. And the worst place to be is that you know just enough to know why the things you're trying are hard and the odds are stacked against you. And that freaks you out. And so you think about it a lot, right?
Example - Elon Musk (02:37)
- So Dalton, one of the most perfect examples of this is actually Elon Musk. And why I think it's so perfect is that depending on how you tell the story, Elon looks like the dummy or the idiot, right? Like, I'm sorry, the dummy or the genius, right? Depending on how you tell the story and it almost doesn't matter, right? 'Cause he's winning. But you know, to me, the first example that I always loved is that I read some book about the starting of SpaceX and it started with Elon going to Russia trying to buy like rockets. And like the Russian government being like, "There's this American billionaire guy "who wants to buy rockets." And kind of not believing it. But Elon just looking really serious. So they like considered it. And they eventually said no, but like, he got to talk to people about buying rockets from them. He's just a dude with money. - He was like, "Go to Russia, buy rockets." Like that's the extreme. Is that genius or stupid? I can't tell. - I can't tell. - And like with Tesla itself, like to me, the Midwitt is electric cars are good. That's the extreme. Electric cars is good. Or on both, in the middle, it's like, no one has successfully done a startup car company since the 50s and every single, if you look at all prior attempts to build an electric car, like there's all these words. - And the infrastructure you need is good. - Yeah, yes. And I think the one that we find most funny, which we'll see, this video we'll see if we send Sanitas of Time is the boring company, right? Drilling holes under the ground so that you can drive places faster is very clearly the idiot one, but like it could be the genius one too. - Yeah, it's a beginner's mind idea which is like traffic is bad. What if we dug a hole under the ground to get to downtown Las Vegas? And what's funny is you read all the critiques of this, like the Midwest, I'm sort of like, well, bus systems already exist. It's much more efficient to optimize transportation. You know, there's lots of words in the middle of that, but you know, drill tunnel to avoid traffic is certainly at the extremes. - Yeah. - And you kind of see him approach all of his problems in his way where you can imagine it being the same sort of ideas that we like, Mars is cool. Like, yeah, Mars is cool. Like this is the kind of stuff we come up with as teenagers. Like all of his ideas. - Yes. And the hard work is in the implementation, but the idea isn't very complicated. And like the V one is kind of simple minded. - And if he was an overthinker, he would rule all the stuff out. All the stuff is like obviously a bad idea and anyone in the Midway territory would rule up all these ideas. - Yes, right? - Yes, and they still do. They still do. It's the Tesla short seller, right?
Midwit Meme - Fundraising (05:30)
Let's go through some examples of the Midwitt meme. And you have to start with the meme that you made for YC Founders. So just to provide context, we're in the part of the batch where YC Founders start getting nervous about fundraising. And whenever a founder gets nervous, they sort of overthinking. And whenever they start overthinking, they assault us with office hours on topics. And Dalton created this meme so that we could fight back. What does the meme say? - Yeah, the meme is simple. It's the naive founder is like, oh, I'm gonna raise the amount of money I need to succeed. I need, here's the amount of money I need to raise for my series A. I ran a model and it's, you know, $800,000. So that's what I'm gonna raise. That is the like naive approach. The really smart three time founder, someone that's done this before is like, I need to raise $800,000. So I'm going to do it. And then the midwitt is the one who wants to ask 15 questions and try to construct the perfect round and be afraid that some, they may not have an allocation for value add investors. And they wanna not have a signaling risk. They talk a lot about signaling risk. And there's like all these factors where I'll be talking to someone and it will be like 15 levels deep and a hypothetical for an offer that they don't have. Right? And that's the midwitt man, is that like you're screwing yourself by overthinking all this stuff. Instead of just being like, hey, I need X dollars, I'm gonna raise it and I'm gonna get back to work.
- This comes up a lot with MVPs. One of the questions that I love getting from a founder is before we launched our MVP, how do we know we're gonna be able to survive the onslaught of traffic and users that will come on our launch day? What's the midwitt play? What's the midwitt meme for your MVP? - I mean, yeah, the two extremes the midwitt meme are launch something fast. Build something fast and put it out. And the midwitt one is like, well, I don't wanna get a bad reputation that I think was buggy and we only have one shot to launch. And you know, like you come up-- - What about the press? We gotta do a press launch. Doesn't have to be an event. - Yeah, I don't want people to see my idea and copy it so it's gotta be perfect. - Yes. - That's one. - And then do we do like a tech crunch post or is it better to try to get the New York Times or like what about Hacker News? - Yeah. - We need to get all three. So how do we coordinate them together? - We wanna be featured in the New York Times and so how do we optimize for that? Or, oh, what should we name the company? How about-- - Yes. - I don't-- - Yes. We have to rebrand because there's a name that's kind of similar to ours. We don't want people to be confused.
How about co-founders? I hear this a lot. Like I am a business person and I'm good at sales. I need to find a marketing co-founder and an engineer like a CTO who's already managed 50 people 'cause we're gonna grow fast. Like how does co-founders-- - Yeah, it's like-- - I'm like, yeah, Dalton, I'm open to the idea of a co-founder. I just haven't found the right person. And what I'm really looking for, someone with at least five to seven years of experience at Google who made it to at least a level seven. And so, you know, I haven't found the right person yet but we're looking for it. - Yes. - And when we find them, I'm totally open to bring out a co-founder when I find that one. But first we're gonna raise money and then I think that I'll track a better co-founder. - Yeah, yeah. - So again, the point we're kind of making is not that any one of these ideas is the one people say. It's that it's thinking in circles and having a thousand different reasons that it's the person that should be your co-founder is no one that you currently know. - Yes, yes. - Right? - And let's talk about the other sides of the equation, right? The on the dumb side, the founders like it's fun to work with my friends. So I'm just gonna start with my friend. - On the smart side, the guy's like. - Justin Cohen likes to put a camera on his head. - Yeah, let's go. - Let's start going. - Like, drinking? - Why did they pick you? Is there co-founder? Wasn't it like, - Well, 'cause I helped them find an apartment and open up a boat. - There you go, vote. - This guy, this guy helped us find an apartment. All right, he's the co-founder of Twitch. Done. - There you go, done. And then like the super smart experience founders, like, oh, having co-founders viable for emotional support and I know this is gonna be tricky. Like they have all the like sophisticated reasons. Same answer, same answer. I love that. Okay, next, this is a classic one, especially 'cause you have to do with so many admissions questions.
Applying to YC (10:16)
Applying to ICDELT. What is the, what is the Jedi founder move to apply to IC versus the Midwitt founder? - Yeah, the extremes of this and the Midwitt meme are, I filled out my application and submitted it. Like, like I applied. And the Midwitt founder is like, gee, I don't know if now is the right time to apply. I don't know if we're ready. Oh, I'm gonna write a draft to my application and send it to 15 people and I'm gonna get feedback on my application and I'm going to like, you know, oh, I need an introduction to alumni and I need to talk to alumni and I need-- - I need recommendations. Yeah, the recommendations from strangers that don't love me. - I'm gonna do a lot of research. Like you talk to people that like put months of effort into their application to YC strategy. - Yes. - Not correlated with success. And then you talk to people and they're like, oh yeah, I just like filled it out in 30 minutes. - Submit it in. - Yeah. And I spent all that other time working on my company. - And be clear, we're not saying do a bad job on your application. We're just saying trying to tweak out on this is like something that you can spend tons and tons and tons of time on. I'm not sure that's a great allocation of resources. - No. And I think that's like maybe the essential point here is that like, we want you to spend time on the important stuff for your startup. Like we're trying to get you to avoid spending time on the things that won't help you. That's the idea. - Same idea. - That's the idea.
Product Market Fit (12:03)
- All right, next, and here's kind of a classic one, is product market fit. Dalton, do I have product market fit? And what's the mid-wit approach to product? - Yeah, the mid-wit approach for this one is to be not sure if you have it and create 15 different metrics and like a complicated series of thoughts that maybe you have it or you have early product market fit. Versus the extremes on this meme. - Early product market. - We have started. - Everyone's got early. - Yeah. The extremes of this are like, am I overwhelmed with demand? Like you know what, when you see it. Like you don't have to think very hard when you have it. It sort of like hits you over the head when you have product market fit. - Dalton, I think the extremes in the meme is like, did I sleep last night? I didn't sleep last night. - Do I have time to wonder if I have product market fit? - That's yes. - If you have time to wonder about it, if you're like, gee, do I have product market fit? Let me, let's pontificate on this. That probably means you don't. - Yes, let's do some, let's make some reports. So, we talk about all the situations where maybe overthinking is not a good idea. But you also describe, you know, there are certain situations, you call them trap door decisions when maybe you wanna think a little bit harder than before making a move.
Trapdoor Decisions (13:17)
So what are some examples of those? - Yeah, so, legal issues, don't break any law. Like saying you didn't know there was a law is not a great legal defense. Regulatory issues, similarly, oh, I didn't know that I couldn't longer this money. Probably not great. You may wanna overthink that and look into it. Things that affect people's health and wellbeing. Yeah, you should overthink that. You should really spend the time. - Worrying about people, right, man? Like, let's not be fast and loose if we're building an online pharmacy. Let's measure twice cut once. - Totally. - And I think that what really good founders do is they are very good at figuring out, are they dealing with something like that or are they not? 'Cause even within legal, right? There's certain things that are like, oh, this is like whatever. And there's certain things that are like really bad. - Michael, should I file patents for all of my IP? - Exactly. - Absolutely. - Absolute classic overthinking. - Absolutely not. - Probably not. - So I think that like, the framework here is really twofold.
One, don't overthink when you don't have to. And then two, remember that like, most of the work, most of the work, is not in these overthinking games. Like most of the work are not in these over optimizing games. - Yeah, it's an action. - Yeah. - Taking action and not thinking, right? - Yes, yes. It's launching, it's getting the first customer, it's selling, it's like, it's doing these things yourself. And that's kind of intuitive because I think that founders understand that startups are really hard. So they assume you need complex strategies to succeed. And it's like, oh, that's a hard thing. It makes sense when I say it, right? This is hard, we would need a complex strategy, right? How do you respond to that? It's like, what actual kind of strategy do you need? - I think if you haven't seen really successful startup companies, either personally, like where you were the founder of one, or you know people and you saw them go through it, it's hard to believe how silly these things are when they start. Like, I think unless you've literally witnessed it personally and you've seen the silly shit that goes on and like how what it really takes to get big, your brain rejects the idea that that's actually how these companies got built. You're like, no, not true. It had to be like lots of strategy meetings and whiteboarding, you know, flow charts and you know, Gartner magic quadrants of like, like, like I think you really, your brain won't allow you to see that actually here's a nice way to say it is, you know the term beginner's mind.
Beginner's Mind (16:21)
You wanna have a beginner's mind. - Yes. - That's what the midway mean is. And a beginner's mind is like, I guess I'm gonna build a product and I'm gonna give it to people. I guess I'm gonna deliver burritos, you know? Like, that's a beginner's mind approach. - Yeah, that's the game. And so you might find yourself after watching this video asking yourself, what do I need to unlearn?
Addressing The Need For Unlearning
What Do I Need To Unlearn (16:45)
- Yeah. How can I have a beginner's mind? Because again, this is the beauty of the midwitt meme is the genius in the idiot come into the same conclusion. So what is the idiot approach? Like, that's actually how you can divine the genius approach is you're like, what would an idiot do? - Everyone can reach for the idiot approach. - Yeah. - Everyone has the intellectual capacity to reach for the idiot approach. - Yeah, if I didn't know anything. So with all that being said, have fun and don't overthink it too much. Don't overthink it too much and make sure that you have a little bit of something in your head that's asking yourself, is this the thing that's really important? If not, I can move on. If not, I can move on.