When You Change the World and No One Notices (And Knows You)

Invention requires a long-term willingness to be misunderstood. You do something that you genuinely believe in, that you have conviction about, but for a long period of time, well-meaning people may criticize that effort … if you really have conviction that they’re not right, you need to have that long-term willingness to be misunderstood. It’s a key part of invention.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s Founder and CEO

“This does seem to be a very promising and original idea, and I am looking forward to seeing how the concept is further developed,” Hal Finney, an active member of the cryptographic activist movement at the time, had replied to an email from an unknown fellow who bragged about working on a “new electronic cash system that’s fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party.”

Hal’s message was the first positive comment, after two negative replies, about the technology that would end up redefining the world, creating a new set of millionaires and billionaires in the process.

Everywhere else in the world, except on this cryptography mailing list, no one knew of this idea.

Here’s another part of the Bitcoin story: No one on the mailing list even paid attention at the time. They had seen digital currencies like this one come and gone.

From David Chaum’s DigiCash to Adam Back’s Hashcash, creating a digital money had proved a daunting challenge. That some guy, who called himself/herself Satoshi Nakamoto, without any authority in the cryptography community, could pull this off was difficult to believe.

Took about 9 months after Satoshi Nakamoto’s first message for the first purchase using bitcoin. It was Laszlo Hanecz who bought a pizza pack for 10, 000 bitcoins (worth about N31,851,294,000 today) – even took a few days before anyone accepted that order.

From Morgan Housel:

Big breakthroughs typically follow a seven-step path:

  • First, no one’s heard of you.
  • Then they’ve heard of you but think you’re nuts.
  • Then they understand your product, but think it has no opportunity.
  • Then they view your product as a toy.
  • Then they see it as an amazing toy.
  • Then they start using it.
  • Then they couldn’t imagine life without it.

It’s the same for investing too. You have to go against the consensus to get the best deals. Like Naval Ravikant says: “The larger the herd, the worse your returns.” When an investment option or strategy is popular, you earn average returns.

Bitcoin still has a long way to go before it seeps into everyday culture. It’s the price it has to pay for being a revolutionary technology.

Resources:

Nathaniel Popper: Digital Gold: The Untold Story of Bitcoin

Morgan Housel: When You Change the World and No One Notices

Feranmi reads and writes about marketing, local and global financial markets, private equity and angel investing.