September 15, 2015

Software and Culture

Last week, Pieter Levels, joined us on Product Hunt LIVE. The Dutch developer, designer, and entrepreneur is very well known in some circles and there’s a good chance you’ve played with one of his many products.

Nearly every month, he launches something new, from a personal travel assistant called Taylor to a site that takes your money if you don’t follow through with commitments (appropriately named Go Fucking Do It). The nomadic, “one-man startup” embodies two growing startup trends:

  1. It’s easier to make things. A single person can build something useful in relatively short amount of time thanks to more advanced programming languages, open source, and better tools/resources.
  2. Makers can live anywhere. You don’t need to live in a tech hub like Silicon Valley to build product and a network.

I asked him about this and loved his response so much, I had to share.

Yes, absolutely! I think “making” in the broad sense is quickly being democratized by the internet. It’s happened to art, culture, music and now finally software too. It’s great because it lets more people express themselves creatively and that means there’s more ideas going around. And to me software is the defining form of expression right now, it combines all the senses and with the internet we literally have the potential to reach most of the world’s population soon. That’s insane to think about and mostly positive I think.
As you mention, it’s become so much easier to build stuff without being a great programmer (as I’m a good example of, I’m pretty bad!). That will only continue. With more simple tools, it’ll be possible to build entire startups without programming. You see now that building basic MVPs has become possible with just a Typeform. That will continue into entire startups I think. And that means in the future most of our non-tech friends will be able to build stuff too. I think that’s great. It’s scary for us tech people though as it’ll increase competition.
Innovate or perish.
Also yes! If people follow me on Twitter, I might grind people’s gears with my criticism of Silicon Valley. But it’s mostly to provoke and let people think fo alternatives. As you know (you’re in the middle of it), the core of building a product is simply building it. Everything else is secondary.
I think being outside of Silicon Valley is in a way an advantage in that respect. There’s a lot less distraction and you don’t really have any other choice than just to focus on the most important, building your product.
Our “startup” subculture is the most tech-enabled in the world. Most of our day, we already communicate through the internet. So why is being in one place (like SV) still so important for us. I don’t think it is any longer although SV has its merits (you know better than me as that’s why you’re there).

Photo credit: Xiufen Silver (great pic!)

Spot on, Pieter.

Technology is colliding with every industry, shaping the way we build companies, communicate with people, and live our lives. It influences culture the same as music, film, and other art forms have for centuries. And as tech becomes increasingly accessible, more people have the opportunity to express themselves and shape culture through software, the same way an artist moves millions of people with their music.

It’s an exciting time for product makers. 😊

Thanks, Pieter. Check out his full LIVE Chat.

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