George Washington would have loved Kickstarter

It’s hard, maybe impossible, to look at historic figures without a large dose of presentism.  Let’s acknowledge that fact and move on.

If we plopped our founding father, George Washington, into late 2012… what would he like… what would he admire?

In my opinion he’d love the internet and more specifically… he’d dig Kickstarter.

Among Washington’s greatest strengths was his ability to see a few years down the road and embrace the early stages of large-scale, potentially radical change.

His early life was the same as most people born in the 1730s, he wasn’t born into wealth and didn’t go to a private school. He didn’t even go to public school. George was tutored by his father and trained to survey land.

Where he was different, like many of today’s entrepreneurs, is with his ability to read the winds of change.

Washington, like Edwin Land or Steve Jobs, didn’t wait for an idea to be fully fleshed out or a product to be fully baked before engaging the public with it.

About halfway through Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life it hit me… the story of George Washington’s role in the creation of the United States parallels that of today’s entrepreneurs.

His life during the American Revolution offers an illustration, complete with wobbly early periods, of a modern day startup. Washington was more than a big thinker and calculated risk taker… his life was dedicated to transforming culture.

So how would Washington view the concentration of power in distinct regions and niche population groups? I think he would understand these as inevitable but also see the inherent limitations.

And that leads me to Kickstarter.

Kickstarter, and similar organizations like Kiva, are democratically transformational. That is… they enable unfiltered access to numerous, unconnected, small pools of capital. They assist by organizing the potential value and overseeing the transactional needs. Simultaneously they deliver a templated, scalable platform for ideas that need capital but until recently had fewer places to find it. The connection of these two forces… changes the world.

Washington’s leadership in the American Revolution from 1775 – 1783 is a similar story. He understood that if he organized numerous small pools of soldiers and optimized best practices (their ability to organize and fight) then he would be able to amass the needed power to take on the largest military in the world. He crowdsourced a revolution. He templated training regimes, drew on innovative fighting approaches from indigenous cultures… he focused the cultural chaos of the day into a collective energy and… changed the world.

George Washington would have loved Kickstarter

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