Sapiens and the Brief History of Startups

Sapeins: A Brief History of Humankind (by Yuval Noah Harari) is a book reviewing the history of humans, with specific focus on Homo sapiens and our future as a species. This book has just recently been made available in English and I highly recommend reading it (I read the English version).

While I read it over this past weekend, I found myself thinking a lot about the micro-cosmos I live in: the startup world. As the book points out, the idea of limited liability companies and corporations is a very new one and even compared to that, startups are an extremely new idea. So imagine how insignificant is the concept of startups on the progression of humanity over the course of the million years we’ve been walking the planet. As the author of Sapiens calls it, companies are just a fiction we’ve created to achieve certain goals, there’s no physical value to their existence.

However, startups are the entire life of of nearly two million people, some living in Silicon Valley and others not. Compass have just released a report on the evolution of startups over the past few decades with an intense focus on Silicon Valley. They take us through what they call “the tipping point between the Industrial and Information Eras”. This is interesting as it ties into what Harari discusses regarding the Industrial Revolution and attempts to forecasts where humanity is going.

So, in a thousand years, will someone write an updated version of Sapiens and discuss how the Information Revolution has impacted humanity? Specifically, will they go into great lengths to describe a place called Silicon Valley, where “startups” were created at a previously unheard-of pace, that changed the day-to-day of humans across the entire Earth?

I believe so. Not just because I am the founder of a startup that has set its eyes on changing the world. But because I look around me and see that others are doing the same, and many of us are succeeding. Humans now consume information differently, interact differently, make our livelihood differently and enjoy life differently. Radically different in most cases. It’s akin to the Agricultural Revolution which turned humans from wandering bands to the creators of permanent residences.

Funny to think that startups, which are just a figment of our imagination per Harari’s book, are changing the lives of not just the billions that live today, but the hundreds of billions that will live just a few years from now. Goes to show how powerful imagination can be.


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