By age 19 the subject has written all the poems he would ever write, which will revolutionize poetry for a century to come and influence art as varied as Henry Miller’s memoirs and Patti Smith’s CBGB shows. By age 27 he has traveled to all parts of the western hemisphere in pursuit of business ventures.
In his 30s, he settles in the remote city of Harar, in what is today Ethiopia, a landlocked ancient city where commerce had once thrived but is now slow, where prospects are few. More or less, this is where the story ends.
Reading this biographical travel guide, the author of which pursued an abbreviated route similar to that of Arthur Rimbaud in order to experience what his subject must have, certain similarities between Rimbaud in the 19th century and a present-day entrepreneur are striking.
That entrepreneurship is a creative undertaking goes without saying, and one might even go so far as to compare the entrepreneur to the poet, as there is in many (perhaps most) entrepreneurs a spark of romance, idealism, inspiration, and the desire to touch – hopefully improve – some aspect of their environment. There is an energy in entrepreneurship – a restlessness that is almost an end in itself for some – not dissimilar to the referenced poet’s travel, his continuous quest, occasional discovery, and adventurous invention.
The story of Rimbaud’s life is a catalog of calls to action. Maybe even his poetic style – innovative and intended to shake up – were a venture that had run its course… at which point the serial entrepreneur moved on, to his next projects in succession – commodities trading, gun running – which undertakings were no different in a sense from (and really a continuation of) The Illuminations, The Drunken Boat, Season in Hell.
The tale, however, turns cautionary, as Rimbaud’s storm and spark take him to a remote locale where he will meet his end. Perhaps considering Harar to be an “untapped market,” the entrepreneur attacks it with his usual passion. But Harar, it seems, was fated to be untapped, and what seemed like a territory ripe for the entrepreneur’s ventures turns out to be an isolated enclave where he is cut off from the flow of commerce, where business conditions are poor, and where, worst of all, there are few other entrepreneurs around.
Thus, it is once again demonstrated that no man is an island, and that context, timing, conditions, communication, interaction, traffic, learning, are all as important to the business builder’s success as are individual traits such as inspiration and energy.
Rimbaud’s classic poetry was a product of Paris, as much as it was of Rimbaud.
Though the initial framework and a rudimentary form of the system was unveiled at Stanford University‘s Maples Pavilion on February 9, 1973 (every tweeter blew as the band began their first number), the Grateful Dead did not begin to tour with the full system until a year later.
Many people assume that besides the great primal deception there is also in every individual case a little special deception provided for their benefit, in other words that when a drama of love is performed on the stage, the actress has, apart from the hypocritical smile for her lover, also an especially insidious smile for the quite particular spectator in the top balcony. This is going too far.
It’s interesting to consider the idea of generational networks, where the platform is identified with its age of power-users and new social magnets emerge with each succeeding bracket, based on its particular tastes and modes of communication.
Based on this thesis, it isn’t inconceivable that at some point in time, when the particular network generation fades, so also its social network of choice. And a new concept might thus factor into the analysis – the lifetime value of the network – an estimate that may in certain ways resemble resources sector analytics, where, for instance, an asset of reserves evolves from unproven to proven to producing and, at some calculated point in time, its depletion. (This isn’t different to think about from the funding stages of seed to the succeeding venture capital series to the eventual exit at its public or acquisition value.)
The companies with portfolios of such assets benefit from a continuous economic stream, whereas the companies without, don’t, and are evaluated on the basis of the single finite thing… at least that is the case in natural resources. So, by analogy, it is conceivable that platforms such as Instagram or Snap, or even Facebook proper, are grossly overvalued on the implied assumption of perpetuity, much like, perhaps, MySpace was one time… but Facebook as a company, to a much lesser degree.
If so, the long-term value growth and sustenance of the underlying businesses and their models will depend on their ability to diversify and continuously replace the depleted old with the producing new, or to create some form of functional diversity that might transcend the passing generations.
In this latter regard, commerce and finance come to mind, noting that communities centered around, say, Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan, have withstood the test of sequential generations, and that relatively newer commerce forms, like Amazon and Walmart, are still around and thriving.
It’s interesting to consider these things when thinking about Facebook’s strategic moves over the past decade, or the fact that Twitter and Square share a chief executive.