Of Startups and Meltdowns… Free Market Success vs. Government Failure

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I’m an entrepreneur.I’m constantly full of ideas and trying to get businesses started. As I seek to launch my newest endeavor, BrandScanned, I’m trying to get myself involved in the Atlanta startup community. As such, last weekend I had something of a startup adventure. I participated in Startup Weekend at Georgia Tech, where people with ideas and skills get together in a mashup competition to build an idea into something more over the course 54 hours. Inexplicably, BrandScanned just missed attracting enough votes to be one of the projects that went forward, so I joined a team called Zuit. Zuit was the brainchild of a young woman named Megan, who saw an opportunity in the fact that women rarely feel beautiful or confident in off the rack suits. Her customized tailoring website idea was not only brilliant, but the team was amazing. Over the course of a weekend we took Megan’s idea and turned it into something more. The tech part of our team was made up of four coding geniuses, including these guys. They designed and built a beautiful demo website that was nothing short of spectacular.  My part of the team focused on the business model, the business opportunity and putting together the investor pitch while others filmed videos for the site.

You can of course imagine the scene… Diet Cokes, granola bars, pizzas and lots of coffee. There were computers and iPads and mobile devices and lots of white boarding. Some of the teams had a plan then pivoted 180 degrees after talking to prospective customers. Others, including ours, stayed laser focused on the original idea. And that of course is the beauty of entrepreneurship, you combine what you’re good at or passionate about and figure out how those things fit with what customers need or want. 

While some of the ideas that teams worked on were throwaway and others were quite serious, the takeaway of the weekend was this: Driven people can do amazing things. Essentially a room full of people who mostly didn’t know one another were told to talk about their ideas, split into groups and then essentially “Go do something.” And they did. None of the ideas is likely to save the world or cure cancer, but that wasn’t the point. It was to try and make something. And they did.

The whole thing reminded me of something I’d read a few days before Startup Weekend. It had to do with three guys who developed HealthSherpa.com (an Obamacare clone that actually worked) in just a few days. Somehow, three 20 year old kids were able to build something in less than a week that the government couldn’t figure out how to accomplish in three years with half a billion dollars at their disposal. (Actually the government spent 4 times more building a broken website than apple did building the iPhone that changed the world.) What’s worse, the catastrophe that is Obamacare not only doesn’t do what was claimed it would do, but it actually makes matters far worse than it was on countless levels, and we’re not just talking about a dysfunctional website. Can you imagine if Apple built into the iPhone a tool that allowed convicted felons to track your whereabouts? Can you imagine if your stock broker took away your shares of Google and replaced them with shares of Zynga without asking? How about if you live in Iowa but in order to drive a car State Farm required you to have hurricane insurance? That’s basically what the government does with Obamacare.

Thankfully the private sector doesn’t usually work that way. There are two reasons for that. The first is that in a free market consumers have choices, and they can vote with their feet and dollars when a company fails to meet their needs. With government that’s never the case. It decides what’s best for you and you’d better get used to it, because it’s pretty certain that you’re going to be stuck with it for a long time. There is no consequence for failure and as a result most government endeavors fail, miserably.

The second reason is that government operates from a top down mentality. A bunch of politicians, bureaucrats and lobbyists decide they know what’s good for you and then start writing laws and regulations and force you to comply. Unfortunately for you, while the ostensible motivation is your well being, in reality the driving force is usually the accumulation of power, money and of course reelection. Entrepreneurship is just the opposite. It’s a bottom up approach where most ideas come from people who are actually doing things and trying to find real solutions to problems in the marketplace or make their fortune by seizing opportunities where consumers are willing to pay for goods or services.

Which brings us back to Startup Weekend, Zuit and three guys behind HealthSherpa.com. Whether America wants real solutions to real problems or frivolous things that are… well, just fun, the source is unlikely to come from government. Genius ideas come about when creativity is fostered, success matters and the customer is the driving force. As Obamacare (which shares none of those things) decimates the American healthcare system it might be time for Americans to remember what created our unprecedented prosperity in the first place: free markets where entrepreneurs, inventors and innovators decided to try and do something and customers voted with their pocketbooks. As more of our resources are sucked into the abyss of government failure, less are available to invest in entrepreneurs like Megan who seek opportunities in building businesses that bring solutions to real problems. If the implosion of Obamacare does nothing else, maybe it will reverse that trend. Maybe that half billion dollars spent will have a positive outcome after all…

The product of a military family, growing up in Naples, Italy and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and being stationed in Germany for two years while in the Army, Vince spent half of his first quarter century seeing the US from outside of its own borders. That perspective, along with a French wife and two decades as a struggling entrepreneur have only fueled an appreciation for freedom and the fundamental greatness of the gifts our forefathers left us.

7 Responses to “Of Startups and Meltdowns… Free Market Success vs. Government Failure”

  1. 1

    Nan G

    Genius ideas come about when creativity is fostered, success matters and the customer is the driving force.

    But Dems absolutely sided with the many ”Occupiers” over those few entrepreneurs.
    And, when all things Dem are based on vote-counting, entrepreneurs will always lose.
    Literally, Obama DEMONIZED entrepreneurs.
    So, for ObamaCare to implode Dems will have to quit throwing ”other people’s money” at it.
    However, dems don’t look at entrepreneurs as ”other people.”
    Dems look at entrepreneurs as inhuman demons who deserve to have their money stripped away.
    So, that has to change, too.

  2. 2

    Skookum

    Outstanding, Vince has written an excellent article. He has exposed and humiliated the administration with understatement, while exhibiting the dynamics that actually made America exceptional, back in the not too distant past.

    There is a feature of Obama-type corporate-statism that he didn’t mention: by allowing the private sector to be innovative and dynamic, you circumvent the opportunity for nepotism, crony capitalism, rewarding bundlers, punishing enemies, grow government, and ever growing and pervasive element control.

    Control is the main driver of the Statist philosophy, the other opportunities mentioned are mere devices to achieve control and maintain an army of white collar thugs. White collar thugs would never carry a weapon, but their corruption accomplishes more destruction than an army of thugs with pistols could ever conceive of committing. They and their leader destroy the creative nature and pure entrepreneurial spirit of the young and often not so innovator. How can they expect to compete against government subsidies of substandard engineering and product, when their efforts are doomed to fail, because they belong to the wrong party. They become casualties of the ‘punish your enemies’ type of solution so often promoted by our covert anti-American president.

  3. 3

    ilovebeeswarzone

    vince
    I LOVE IDEAS, THEY COME FROM FAR DEEP INSIDE THE GUTTS THEY ARE PURE JUICES WHICH THE BRAIN BUILD UP SLOWLY FROM A PHYSICAL TOUR DE FORCE EFFORT
    WHICH TAKE THE OUTMOST ENERGY FROM THE MAKER OR THE THINKER OF,HOW CAN I MAKE SOMETHING TO GO FASTER OR TO DO BETTER OR TO GO HIGHER UP, OR DEEPER DOWN,
    OR TO ELIMINATE THE EIDS WHICH HAVE KILLED AND ALSO TAKEN LIMBS OF SO MANY BRAVES WARRIORS, WHICH MY POOR IGNORANCE GOT THE IDEAS TO SEARCH FOR IDEAS OF INVENTING THE TRUE SOLUTION OF PULVERISING THOSE BURRYED YOUNDER WHERE THE WARRIORS WALK,
    IT WAS BURNING MY BRAIN TO FEEL SO IGNORANT AND WISH SOMEONE WOULD CAPTURE
    MY SO CALLED, TOOLS I WAS EXPRESSING AS A NEW BLOGGER FIRST AT THE BBC BLOG,
    ANY KEY WORDS WHICH CAME TO MIND , I TYPED TO MIGHT BE OF HELP FOR A CREATOR IDEAS,
    LASER, MINE SEARCHING TOOL LIKE MAGNET,, CHIMICALS TO DESINTEGRATE THE CLUSTER OF EXPLOSIVES,
    A TOOL TO SEE UNDER THE EARTH, A THIS AND A THAT, TO ME IT WAS AN OUTMOST URGENCY
    TO FIND THE WAY TO MAKE THAT GADGET, I WAS SEEKING FOR ENGENEERS AND EVEN BOEING COMPANY HAVING A CLOSER AND SURE WAY TO MAKE SUCH A GADGET,
    IT WAS MADE BUT TOO EXPANSIVE TO PUT IT TO WORK A BIG UGE MONSTER ON WHEEL
    OR WAS IT CHAINTRAC TOO BIG TO BE A REGULAR PART OF EVERY DAYS WARRIORS
    WHO WHERE USING METAL DETECTORS WHICH WHERE NOT ENOUGH COMPATIBLE AND TRUSTEBLE,
    ANOTHE SOLDIER ENGENUINLY BUILT HIS OWN WITH TRASH METALS AND USED IT FOR HIMSELF,
    WELL MY INTEREST OF IT ENDED AFTER THE PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA OFFER A MILLION DOLLARS FOR ANYONE WITH A PLAN OF EXTERMINATING THOSE EIDS,
    AND FURTHER IN TIME i HEARD THE BRITISH HAD MADE A SPECIAL UNIT WHOES TASK WAS TO DO JUST THAT WITH THEIR OWN FOUND EXPERTIZE, BUT ONE OF THEIR TASK EXPLODE AND KILL A FEW OF THEM, WHICH ENDED THAT TEAM WHO WHERE DISMANTEL,
    WELL SO MUCH FOR TRYING, BUT I STILL CHERISH IDEAS,FOR WORTH WHILE.
    THANK YOU FOR THAT POST OF YOURES AS ALWAYS YOU HAVE VERY GOOD IDEAS,
    YOU MIGHT BRING THEM TO US WHO WOULD APPRECIATE IT, THEY ARE TREASURED WHICH
    AMERICA DWELL MANY TIMES IN, SO TO BENEFIT THE OTHER HUMANSAS THEMSELVES,

  4. 4

    FAITH7

    People – Ofraud Voters in particular – are beginning to realize ….GOVERNMENT FORCED REDISTRIBUTION OF ‘MIDDLE CLASS’ WEALTH…and SOCIALISM…ISN’T all it’s cracked up to be… ESPECIALLY when it hits them in their OWN POCKETS

  5. 5

    DrJohn

    author

    If the implosion of Obamacare does nothing else, maybe it will reverse that trend. Maybe that half billion dollars spent will have a positive outcome after all…

    Indeed.

  6. 6

    James Raider

    Well done Vince,

    Entrepreneurship is just the opposite. It’s a bottom up approach where most ideas come from people who are actually doing things and trying to find real solutions to problems in the marketplace or make their fortune by seizing opportunities where consumers are willing to pay for goods or services.

    Entrepreneurs and their efforts are the life blood of a modern, successful society – not the too-big-to-fail enterprizes or government.

    Being a successful entrepreneur is massively difficult, requiring attention and perfect excecution of a thousand details, while on the other hand, being installed as the CEO of a multi billion dollar company is much, much simpler (you’re just getting plugged into an existing structure). And government? . . . All governments seem to harbour fugitives from common sense, and attract too much self righteous ignorance.

    Losers like the barnacles clutched around the current Oval Office have no concept of what it takes to be an entrepreneur, inovative or otherwise. Most have never held real jobs, but have simply leached off the taxpayer all their lives.

    The Obamacare website could easily have been established in a tenth the time it took to build the disaster. It should also not be costing 1 billion dollars. The job could have been done for well under $10 million – probably closer to 5 or 6. But the Obamas and Jarrett hired their “benefactor” friends who will be further supporting Barrack when a post-presidency position is created – something like GLOBAL PLENIPOTENTIARY OF NO FIXED ADDRESS. An audit should be done on this scam.

    All the best with your ventures, Vince.

  7. 7

    ilovebeeswarzone

    James Raider
    HI,
    I LIKED WHAT YOU EXPLAIN, YES
    it take the ability to focus on the target or the idea and develop the package one layer at the time, IS IN IT,
    and the bigger the business, the more complications yes?
    and they want to go too fast, as OBAMA MENTIONED IN THE BEGINNING, he said: I WANT TO HEAR THE CASH REGISTER RING,
    wasn”t it to put the buggy in front of the horse, and showing a lack of all what you mentioned is needed,
    to build that OBAMACARE,
    I think so, AND CAN YOU IMAGINE NO SECURITY FOR A BIG STRUCTURE LIKE THAT,
    IT’S WEIRD AND UNTHINKEBLE, WEIRD BECAUSE ALL HIS FAILURES SINCE HE IS THERE, GIVE A TASTE OF WEIRD LIKE ANORMAL, LIKE COMING FROM AN ALTERED BRAIN
    BY TOO MUCH WEED SHEWING, HE ALONE SHOULD KNOW THE ANSWER, BUT ALL OF US SEE IT WITH NO DOUBT,

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