Sunday, May 19, 2013

Be a subversive, not a rebel

As an entrepreneur, try to be a subversive, not a rebel.

Here's how I differentiate between the two:

1) A rebel breaks the rules because he or she hates being told what to do.  A rebel's defiance is open, and being identified as a rebel is a feature, not a bug.

2) A subversive breaks the rules because he or she is trying to accomplish a goal, and breaking the rules is the best way to accomplish that goal.  A subversive's defiance may be secret or open, depending on which is most likely to help accomplish the desired goal.

Subversion is rebellion with subtlety and purpose.

Napster was about rebellion--it was clearly illegal and the company didn't bother concealing it.

Pandora was about subversion--finding a loophole around streaming royalty rules.

Rebellion can change the world, but it often flames out.  Subversion is subtler, but has a higher chance of success.

(This post inspired in part by a conversation with Martin Bogomolni)

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