Victus Spiritus


All for One, and One for All

20 Jan 2010

This famed Three Musketeers unifying call is based on the latin phrase Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno.

The ideal relationship between the dynamic demands of community, contrasted with the needs of the individual is a timeless human interest. We are instinctually social, a tribal species. The balance of tribe versus member seesaws through varied political structures, economic systems, and cultures. The transience of social communities is a sure sign that we are in a state of flux, seeking harmony. Exploring the space of personal liberties relative to group needs is intrinsically human. The changing balance is a macro mirror of nature itself.

Biology's Value Shift of Micro to Macro

Compare the value of single cells to the larger organisms they are part of. A single cell can live or die and have little effect to the whole, as nature favors disposable resilience for organism survival. But the single cell of origin (fertilized cell) is arguably just as important as all cells later on. Nature appears to shift its favor from the needs of one, to the needs of many.

The balance of resources between one and many was decided through the relentless trial and error of survival. Poor mutations result in stastical pressures driving them out of a species. Still, the diversity of a species now ensures a great potential for future adaption. Humanity has developed social structures which change the weighting of traits, and a great example is our economic networks.

Businesses Exhibit Measures of One to Many

Corporate structures, startups, family businesses, free agents, and non-profits all represent evolutionary financial structures. They have adapted different methods for valuing and compensating individual and team efforts. I'll contrast the one to many value trade of large corporations (BigCo) versus startups.

Corporate One to Many Value

The driving survival traits for a corporate body are execution and efficiency. Large change (mutations) usually results in the demise of the corporate body. The corpration rewards it's top management and executives for successful execution of measurable goals. Low level employees can contribute immense value to a corporate body but receive minimal or no reward beyond substinence wages. In contrast some may ride along at the minimal level of effort and get cost of living adjustments. The corporate structure highly values ideas of it's leadership, and places token value on the majority of it's workforce. But it has functioned effectively in this form for centuries.

Startups Favor the Early Investors & Founders More

In a different environment, those that found the seed of a corporate structure can be rewarded much for their efforts. Startups have a powerful ecosystem of value trades. Each early founder or employee has a drastic impact on the future value of the business, and will be rewarded based on their share of ownership and company success.

Angel and Venture Capitalists risk money on promising founders who shoot for the moon by disrupting entire market segments. Another type of startup goes without large external investment. The bootstrapped business energetically focuses on a single consumer need, and slowly builds value with growth and revenue.

In venture backed startups a generic share split may be: founders with 20% of shares, 20% to early employees and upper management, and 60% to all capital investors. Success for these structures is a positive liquidity event (sell to a larger company - Mergers and Acquisitions, or an Initial Public Offering). Organically grown businesses may take much longer to mature but founders (and often employees) will own a larger share of the business.

Startups are known for an intense work environment independent of their chosen growth path. They race to secure a tractable business model, then expand on their successes. Fear of failure is a constant driver. But it takes a back seat to experimenting with novel designs, and creative combinations of existing features.

Friendships Define All for One, and One for All

My favorite one to many relationship is captured in Star Trek II (Wrath of Khan!!!!), and the third motion picture:

Spock sacrificing himself to save the crew: "The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of one"

Kirk a movie later after finding a reincarnated Spock: "the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many"