The entrepreneurial world is always salivating over the “next big thing.” One year it’s iPhone apps. The next year it’s big data. Then it’s augmented reality. Then virtual reality and the metaverse. Crypto. NFTs. Now we’re in the AI hype machine. The constant enthusiasm for whatever technology is currently on pace to forever change the world seems to indicate that entrepreneurship is, at its core, a process of building around new technologies.
With this in mind, it wasn’t a surprise to me when a young entrepreneur stomped into my weekly office hours asking for advice about the kind of company he should launch. “I’ve been thinking I should probably be looking for something in AI,” he said. “That seems to be where the big opportunity is right now.”
I sighed. Of course he was thinking about building something related to AI. Everyone wants to build something related to AI. But should they?
“Are you interested in AI?” I asked, skeptically.
He shrugged. “ChatGPT seems pretty cool. Honestly, I just want a successful company. I don’t really care what the company does. How do I build a company with the best chance of being successful?”
“That’s easy,” I told him. “Forget about artificial intelligence. Become an exterminator.”
The entrepreneur raised his eyebrows. “Like, the bug killers?” he asked.
“Yes,” I assured him. “If you want the best chance of success, don’t build something with AI. Be an exterminator. Run an unsexy but necessary business and optimize it with technology. It’s exactly what my exterminator is doing, and he’s crushing it.”
I spent the next five minutes telling the entrepreneur about the pest control company that services my home. It’s been protecting my house from bugs for over 20 years. Mind you, I’ve only lived in the house for five of those years. In other words, when I…