A few months ago, Paul Graham, founder of the startup incubator YCombinator, wrote that most really big ideas are frightening. He believes that you can tell if you are on the scent of something really ground-breaking by how much anxiety it produces personally and institutionally.
This phenomenon is one of the most important things you can understand about startups. You’d expect big startup ideas to be attractive, but actually they tend to repel you. And that has a bunch of consequences. It means these ideas are invisible to most people who try to think of startup ideas, because their subconscious filters them out. Even the most ambitious people are probably best off approaching them obliquely.
Personal change, institutional change, or societal change all challenge the conventional norms and push people out of their comfort zones. Change, no matter how frightening, shouldn’t be avoided, though, just addressed intelligently.
The method is this: think big, but start small.
Empirically, the way to do really big things seems to be to start with deceptively small things. Want to dominate microcomputer software? Start by writing a Basic interpreter for a machine with a few thousand users. Want to make the universal web site? Start by building a site for Harvard undergrads to stalk one another.