In Defense of the Idealists

In Defense of the Idealists

The other day I ripped into Pinterest a bit for its spammy email actions for new users. Not long after, a friend of mine called me out indirectly, saying that Google+ did much of the same and yet nobody really talked about it. I’ll argue the point that it wasn’t talked about, but I’ll concede to being somewhat hypocritical when it comes to my expectations related to startups versus the established names. I’m an idealist, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that there should be more of us. I think that the truly ground-breaking startups of the world are run by idealists. They’re the ones who refuse to believe that the status quo is good enough and so they give up life, money, time and all else to try to change the world.

Pinterest is a good example, because it’s not doing anything that hasn’t been done before. It’s simply executing better than FFFFOUND, We Heart It and others have been able. But because of this, I have higher expectations of Pinterest. So when I found that it was sending massive amounts of spammy email, I called the company out.

We ran into a situation here on TNW the other day where one of our Editors had been calling out a large technology company for missteps. In turn, the company decided to “punish” us by taking a story that we had proposed to them and giving it to another site. Were feathers ruffled? You bet. But the overwhelming response was that we would refuse to pander and publish inaccurate PR. Because we, as a staff, are idealists. We want something different. Something more. Something better.

The Oxford Dictionary defines an idealist as:

“a person who is guided more by ideals than by practical considerations”

I believe that, inside of every true entrepreneur, this is a quality that can be found. Practical considerations would have told Larry and Sergey that there were already search engines. They would have told the founders of Uber that charging more for what is essentially a cab ride was a foolish idea. The vast majority of what we consider to be great technology (even if not world-changing) would be struck down by practical considerations. There is a time for practicality in the life of a product, but the imagination phase is not it.

TNW’s Martin Bryant recently traveled to Newry, a small town in Northern Ireland that is trying to become a startup hub in Europe. It’s fighting against all odds to do what it feels needs to be done. Of course, some closed-minded folks are already saying that it should give up trying. Why? Practical considerations, of course.

So here’s to you, idealists, for ignoring the practical. Whether you’re three guys trying to change how the world buys cars, or a company that simply wants to let people know what they find interesting, there is a wealth of opportunity out there if only you will take it. But proceed with caution. There are people in this world like me who expect more of you. Do it better, do it cleaner. Don’t resort to spamming, buying an audience or other such unsavory tactics.

We are the idealists. We are out here, waiting to use what you make. We’ll be your first users and your loudest voices when you do things right, but we’ll be the first to leave and your loudest opposition when you’re not rising above the rest.

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