Build What Matters and Get Sh*t Done: Unfiltered Insights for Entrepreneurs

Here in Silicon Valley there is no shortage of advice available to aspiring entrepreneurs. But finding quality advice, well, that’s a completely different story.

Pascal Finette, vice president of Singularity University (SU) Labs and entrepreneurship faculty chair, is well known for his razor-sharp insights on all things entrepreneurship. This week, his book The Heretic: Daily Therapeutics for Entrepreneurs, debuted on Amazon.


The Heretic gives raw, real, and unfiltered insights for entrepreneurs on subjects like how to overcome real failure (and not the sexy kind celebrated in the media), navigate uncertainty, and choose work that’s meaningful to you.

In the book, you’ll find principles from successful social entrepreneurs, like Kevin Starr of the Mulago Foundation, and Pascal’s own productivity hacks to push you from idea to execution.

We hope the following excerpts from The Heretic give you the jolt you need to go forth, and in the words of Pascal, “Build what matters.”

A Problem Worth Solving

“I received the following question on the art of finding a problem worth solving:

I feel many entrepreneurs are not solving real problems and instead invent imaginary problems in order to justify their solutions. Have all the real problems already been solved or are they just not looking deep enough?

First of all: Guilty as charged. I built my first company on some bogus problem statement and later paid the price. I was desperately looking for a reason, any reason, to start a company. And what I came up with was one huge-pile-of-dog-shit of a problem. Lesson learned.

But to answer the question: No.

There are a gazillion problems, both large and small, worth solving. From the practical (How is it that I still have to use checks to pay for a bunch of stuff in the US?), to the whimsical (Why are all to-do apps still such a disorganized mess?), to the deeply fundamental (Why are there still 2.7 billion people living on less than $2 a day?). It is surely not a lack of actual problems to solve.

So what is it then? Why are so many of the “solutions” people build only marginally, if at all, useful or relevant to the problems we face? To be honest: I don’t know. What I do know is that if you’re still reading this, you are probably different. You care about the things you create.

We Heretics strive to find real problems to solve. We experience these problems either ourselves or through the eyes of our customers. We work to do something meaningful. And while we do this, I suggest we shrug all that other stuff off. Don’t waste your time and energy debunking someone else’s ideas that you don’t care about anyway.

Focus on finding that problem you think is worth solving—and get to work.”

10x Not 10%

“Google has the mantra “10x—not 10%,” which in essence boils down to this: Make things that are ten times better than the status quo, not just incrementally better by a mere 10%.

It’s funny, “10x—not 10%” is just another way of saying “Superior Products Matter.” Which is rule number one (and two if you count in Fight Club terms) when it comes to entrepreneurship.

I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to think this way. If you’re the “challenger,” you need to shift the market. You need to produce something significantly better than the status quo. You need to offer something people will lust for. Otherwise, you’re just an “also-run”—or worse yet, you’re dead in the water.

Ten X my dear Heretics. Ten X. Let the others shoot for ten percent.”


“A few years ago I had drinks with Daniel Epstein, co-founder of the Unreasonable Institute. Two cocktails into a hot, dry summer night in a bar in downtown Boulder we asked each other: What’s your superpower?

We both said: Getting Shit Done.

We are both ideas guys who have a tendency to think big and love getting our hands deep down into the engine to simply get stuff done.

So that night we created the GyShiDo movement.

Today, after quite some time, I re-read our code of honor. Those six simple rules still hold strong for me:

-Relentless Focus.
-Boring Consistency.
-No Bullshit.
-No Meetings.
-Follow Up.
-Don’t be an Asshole.

Make today the day you start becoming a GyShiDo-San!”

If you’re working on something BIG and applying breakthrough technologies to improve millions of lives around the world, the SU Labs Startup Accelerator might be right for you! Our third cohort starts in February 2017, and we’ll start accepting applications in September.
Excerpts from: The Heretic by Pascal Finette

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Alison E. Berman
Alison E. Berman
Alison tells the stories of purpose-driven leaders and is fascinated by various intersections of technology and society. When not keeping a finger on the pulse of all things Singularity University, you'll likely find Alison in the woods sipping coffee and reading philosophy (new book recommendations are welcome).
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