11
Sep
2016
0

Entrepreneurship and the Id Machine

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Slavoj Zizek coined the term Id Machine to describe an engine that allows for the materialization of one’s desires. Id is the unorganized part of one’s personality which contains one’s most instinctual drives. The Id contains the libido which is the source of energy that is unresponsive to reality.

Zizek applied the Id Machine to two movies by Andrei Tarkovsky: Solaris and Stalker.

In both movies, protagonists are faced with an “area” – in Stalker the area is called the room, located within the zone – where their desires are materialized. Zizek names this “area” the Id Machine. The Id Machines are different in each movie. In Solaris, protagonists do not have any control over which desire materializes itself once they are in the Id machine, thus leading to terrifying realizations. In Stalker, protagonists need to figure out what they desires. The realization they sometimes do not know what they desire also leads to terrifying realizations.

Tarkovsky’s philosophical musings, as interpreted by Zizek give us one Id Machine that reveals the perils of our passive nature and another Id Machine that reveals the perils of our active nature. we get tripped by the unknown parts of our desires, by what we think are our desires and by our inability to formulate our desires.

I think parallels can be drawn with entrepreneurs, startups and venture investing. VCs and entrepreneurs all enter an Id Machine at some point, where our desires materialize. Outcomes are never certain. Some outcomes are unexpected, others should have been expected, very few come out as expected.

A Startup’s main protagonists – entrepreneurs and venture investors – need to go through much introspection to sift through their desires. By desires I mean goals, visions, strategy, tactics. Clarity and transparency are paramount. Paradoxically, as the libido is the source of energy unresponsive to reality; the entrepreneur – and to a lesser extent the venture investor – also needs to be “unresponsive to reality”. In other words, the entrepreneur needs to be unshackled from the constraints of reality in order to achieve his dreams. However, she should not make complete abstraction of reality. Complete abstraction from reality leads to either Solaris or Stalker’s Id Machine, with suboptimal results.

I was recently asked what I actively sought in blockchain startups when investing. My answer was interoperability with the real world, pointing to the necessity for a blockchain startup to take into account the realities of the law, especially in the context of securities law in the capital markets space.

I thought further about my interoperability answer in light of Tarkovsky’s movies and Zizek’s interpretation and believe I apply it to all startups. Further elaborating on interoperability, I define it as the quality to will a new reality while understanding the constraints of a current reality, incorporating these constraints within one’s thought processes, and using them to the best of one’s advantages. This is the quality I seek in an entrepreneur and in a startup. In Freudian terms, I seek an entrepreneur who can apply the right ego touches to her id. Too much ego touches and the id’s desires never materialize, too little ego touches and the traps of the Id machine come in play. The right ego touch is also essential in regulating the id’s tendency for instant gratification. Organic growth with the right tempo is often not recognized as one factor of success with startups. There are many pitfalls with fast growth and/or high valuations within short periods of time (too little growth also being a killer). This I view as being part of a certain interoperability with the real world, or with certain natural laws of organic growth.

I find the above amusing on a personal note as I have always been more Jungian than Freudian in my interpretations. That may provide me material for another post.

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