Even Great Art is Lost Without a Buyer

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, Rules of Thumb

Every few days I tweet  a “quote for entrepreneurs” and at the end of the month I collect them into a blog post that has some additional  links and commentary. I also post a simple summary onto the Bootstrapper Breakfast® Yahoo Group.  A quote from Tim Berry in the January 2012 batch triggered an interested discussion that I am recapitulating here because I think Steve Seebart and Lenny Greenberg made some excellent points.


“Don’t just follow your passion unless your passion produces something other people will pay for.”
Tim Berry “Lessons Learned from 22 Years of  Successful Bootstrapping

Prompted Steve Seebart to write

I disagree with Tim Berry’s quote (Follow your passion, but only if it pays). Too many good things have come from people following their passion regardless of profit. It’s also a little depressing to think that every act of creation must end in payday–whither art?

I responded

I agree, not everything is about making money. I always try and work on a few projects that remind me of Dan Akroyd’s line from the Blues Brothers: “We are on a mission from God.”

For example, I was a mentor at Startup Weekend San Jose in January and have continued to help the NightingaleRX team, not because they may ever make a lot of money but because helping folks and their caregivers manage multiple medications for chronic conditions is an important problem and one that simple solutions can be bootstrapped into larger systems to address. It’s important because it’s estimated to affect at least 10% of the elderly and because about 10% of ER admissions for the elderly are due to missed medications or medication interactions.

If you have ever heard Lenny Greenberg talk about why he started Assistyx it was as much more about helping autistic kids (and their parents) with an important problem than trying to build a hugely profitable business. They priced it at a fraction of competing solutions to make it affordable.

But Tim Berry is cautioning entrepreneurs who hope that solely following their passions will enable them to earn a living should be careful.

Which inspired Lenny Greenberg to eloquence

As Sean called me out. I will follow-up.

Tim Berry’s quote wasn’t for hobbyists, it was for entrepreneurs who are trying to build a business.

Creating art for yourself that no one else wants is fine and dandy. But, when other people will pay, that means that it has value and meaning to others.

If you and all your partners are independently wealthy (or have a wealthy benefactor) and can keep a staff paid without getting paid by customers, I am envious of your position. Unfortunately, most normal folks need to pay developers, support, marketing, vendors and family bills without some income. Paul Allen of Microsoft fame, funded many bad businesses that didn’t really find a market, he could afford to follow customer-less passions.

Steve Jobs was quoted in his biography as saying that he was not out for profit for profits sake, profits allowed him to invest in designing and producing great products.

The valley is littered with dead companies that had great ideas that couldn’t find a market. Mozart probably had more great symphonies in his head, as well. Unfortunately, he didn’t know how to get a   buyer (in that day a royal sponsor) and he died too young in poverty.

Even great art is lost without a buyer.

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