All Things Venture #065
Hot DAMN. I’m feeling inspired. Yesterday was a good day at work. I got things done. I did some analysis on a few companies, I connected with a few new founders, I caught up with friends and old co-workers… To paraphrase Ice Cube , “yesterday was a good day.” In any event, I’m feeling inspired today because the serendipty of life came full circle in less than a 24 hour period. I learned (or really relearned something), then saw it readily applied in the world, which validated my original intuition/desire to learn something new, which left me feeling ~inspired~.
So what did I learn?
Yeah. Great question. I’ll get to that.
Basically this 24 hour intellectual exploration started with a random ping in my brain to revisit this website created by the late, the great Virgil Abloh. Virgil Abloh can loosely be described as the King, the Patron Saint, the motherfuckin’ Dali Llama of Streetwear. Basically what I’m trying to say is, Virgil Abloh, rest in peace, was the GOAT of streetwear. Some quick accomplishments of his below:
On the Board of Directors for the Council of Fashion Designers of America (2019)
Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton (2018)
First African American to be the artistic director at French luxury fashion house (2018)
One of Time Magazine’s most influential people (2018)
CEO & Co-Founder of Off White (2013)
He collaborated/designed for/with Ikea, Nike, Serena Williams, Takashi Murakami, Kanye West, the NBA, Rimowa, Mercedes, Moncler, Kith
Has had his art/work displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, The Brooklyn Musuem, Gagosian Gallery and more
He has been described as a man whose, “presence caused, or forced, the fashion industry to accept the values it had diminished as unserious: earnestness, excitment, credulity, love.”
But what I learned, or rather relearned, about him is this (pulled from a 2019 New Yorker profile on him):
Abloh’s “cheat codes” include what he calls the “three-per-cent approach”—the idea that one might create a new design by changing an original by three per cent. His most recognizable gesture is the addition of a phrase in quotation marks, which appears to convey irony.
Those quotation marks the New Yorker profile is referencing, in practice look like this:
It’s crazy right? Quotation marks used in a self referential, ironic way = turning streetwear into a global phenomena & becoming the head of LVMH. Gotta love it. Life works in wild, unexpected ways, and at the same time I think Virgil’s work is an example of how - life doesn’t always need to be too complicated. Sometimes creating something beautiful, valuable, or rare may mean just tweaking something that exists today by 3%. Which brings me to my full circle moment today.
I recently bought a gift for my girlfriend from a different but equally hot/rising/in the moment brand called Telfar. There was an extremely thoughtful, vulnerable (even if was programmatic) email sent from the founder. A screenshot is below:
I know next to nothing about fashion (outside of having a little bit of heat in my closet here and there), but damn - hard to not be inspired by this story. And the cherry on top? That three percent approach is in action in the bottom right hand corner. The quoted, “NOT FOR YOU - FOR EVERYONE” is a direct reference to Virgil’s 3% rule, and on top of that - the entire email is really just a note to the founder, Telfar (i.e the self-referential irony I referenced earlier)
So how does all this relate to tech, startups, and VC?
Simple, at the end of the day - most of the times, creating something new is going to extend from adapting something old. In my belief, for any new business to succeed you will have to create something that either helps customers save time, save money, or capitalize on a truly novel innovation. Most businesses primarily do one of the first two, by leveraging the most recent innovation, but they normally aren’t responsible for bringing that new innovation to light. You could call it format innovation, you could call it the three percent approach, whatever it is - just know that there’s inspiration for the next big thing all around us, all you have to do is look.