Why I'm doing S³
2023 S³White Paper
How I started S³
Medium format taken by Kenyan Branscomb just after filming S1E9.
When I originally started S³ it came from a want to learn more about startups at every stage of their growth — small 2-team cofounders in garages, ambitious apartment sized dreamers, quickly scaling ventures, and ex-startups that are fundamentally changing the world and still maintain that scrappy ethos.
There wasn’t a great way to learn about startups other than knowing people who work at them, scraping through VC portfolio company listings, or getting so successful you get books written about you.
I thought a weekly web series would be a great solution to that problem.
It’d be authentic and uncut, rough around the edges to show the real people building real things. It’d also show the reality of building a startup, it’s hard, 365 and 24/7, so it should be filmed on a Saturday — a time that’s normally for rest and relaxation. It should be released quickly, these teams and the world itself moves fast, so should the show. It should be informative, and teach you about what these startups are building — or so I thought.
I was successful in producing the first 10 episodes in 10 weeks of S³ that did just that. However, my reason for doing the show and my goal with the show now, has changed.
Why I started, is a very different and less interesting answer than why I’ll keep going. So, it’s time to explain why.
You are lucky
S³ is proudly based in San Francisco, CA.
If you’re reading this, you are lucky.
The technology you’re reading this on barely existed 20 years ago and it was expensive. Much of the world today still can’t afford modern consumer technology and over 4 Billion people lack internet access.
You are lucky.
Much of the world is too busy surviving, struggling to get by, and can’t afford to take the time to go down the internet rabbit holes that led you to this paper. 46% of our population lives with only $5.50 a day.
You are lucky.
In terms of when you’re alive, you’re staring straight up the exponential curve of humanity’s technological advancement. People are wealthier, healthier, more peaceful, and connected in an unprecedented way.
You are lucky.
It’s time for humanity to evolve
My go to editing spot.
Historically, there have on average been ~4 motivation drivers our “lucky population” has evolved through:
Interest & curiosity
In a world of currently limitless possibility as we barrel forward to a future of AI and robotics that will for better or worse grant massive amounts of time back to humanity, what do we do? Survival is the only true driver and it will always be, but the drivers of economics, interest, and passion alone won’t be enough to keep us motivated.
I propose the new motivation standard for one’s life be: mission.
A vision and an idea coupled with a drive and inspired sense of ownership in pursuit of it, mission.
Survival, economics, interest & curiosity, and passion should and will continue to be major pillars in our motivation, but I think that they should ultimately support one’s mission in life.
People are closer than they realize
A common scene, me running out the door with my gear to film an episode of S³
People who watch an episode of S³ have one of 2 reactions. They’re either (a) awed, interested, excited, inspired, and curious, or (b) express how smart, visionary, or hardworking they find the founders featured, it has an subtle undertone of self belittlement, lack of belief, and oddly shame.
This sort of surprised me.
Then, I realized I’ve had semi-similar experiences in my life. Entering a new job, meeting someone who’s an expert in a given field, or exploring a new interest — each time I’ve done this I’ve certainly had a sense of non-experience or understanding, but I’m crazy enough to believe I can actually understand, operate in, and master whatever I set my mind to. Call it ego, a fight or flight response to improve, but to me this is the meaning of life, to progress.
I have come to believe that the average person possesses the ability to learn and grow in their potential to do incredible, world changing things.
I believe anyone can become a rocket scientist, that a normal person can learn and understand cell biology, or that a non-expert can learn complicated fields of study. I
I believe a 9 year old kids with curiosity about a subject can reach expert level knowledge and skills in a matter of months or years, I believe teenagers with a hunger to prove themselves can achieve incredible feats, I believe young adults can forge new and previously unimaginable career paths, I believe adults nearing retirement can couple their wisdom with the zeal of the child within them, and I believe that the elderly who near their time have more to give to the world.
I believe people can grow, change, and evolve in ways they could never imagine.
A super small % of people are changing the world
The average episode from season 1 of S³ took 90 minutes to film and 8 hours to edit.
Halfway through the high of filming season 1, meeting visionary founders, geniuses building spacecraft, people imprinting their ideas into software, I had a low point.
I realized there are not enough people whose mission it is to change the world.
I’m talking about founders, builders, researchers, medical professionals, educators — people who are actually having a real impact on the world in big or small ways.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to put a number or % out of our 8 Billion population on this problem, but I haven’t come up with any non-suspect ways to measure this — I’m working on doing so.
However, I do have problems. Lots and lots of problems.
There were countless conversations I had with founders after filming, notorious fans of the show who I met with for coffee, and a couple dinners about various future-focused topics I attended — there was 1 commonality between all of them. At some point, these experts would break out into talking about their theories, sharing their excitement about new research, or brainstorming solutions to real and hard problems that exist.
It was clear — there are a plethora of possibilities, opportunities, and problems to be solved across a wide array of fields. The issue is that there are not enough people who want to work on them.
Why I am doing S³
I wish I looked this happy when I edit…
There are a lot of reasons I’m doing S³ but the one that keeps me going when I’m tired, working on the weekends, and persevering through sickness (I got sick twice while filming season 1) is the mission, which has 2 core beliefs.
People are closer to genius than they think
We need more people who are trying to change the world
It’s S³’s current mission to inspire people to change the world by creating amazing, weekly documentary videos that feature people who are currently changing the world.
That’s why I’m doing S³.
A huge thank you to everyone who participated in season 1. Whether you watched it, shared it, or were featured in it — thank you.
Keep on building the future,