Trying to put a dent in the universe? STOP before it’s too late!

“The goal isn’t to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.”

– Chuck Palahniuk

Anyone else putting a dent in the universe?

When was the last time you heard an entrepreneur say: “We’re here to put a dent in the universe”?

I guess not too long ago, right? And this should come as no surprise!


Well, it seems that many of today’s new entrepreneurs are fed up with solving ‘trivial problems’…and prefer instead to put their focus on coming up with “out of the box” (aka disruptive) ideas that aim to shake things up and turn an industry on its head.

I know, “disruptive” is probably one of the most over-used words out there and has become the de-facto buzzword of the ‘startup era;’ however, many say that this concept is here for a reason.

The “impact entrepreneur” genesis!

WTF I am talking about?

Let me explain…

According to Adam Levene, the person that coined this term; “Impact entrepreneurs are driven by a desire to disrupt the status quo. Doing their bit to push the world forward is what gets them out of bed in the morning… [And they] do what they do for legacy, not for places on rich lists.”

In other words, this type of entrepreneur aims to solve the world’s biggest problems and leave a legacy that will live on long after s/he leaves this planet.

That’s right, they want to be remembered by making a huge impact on many peoples’ lives.

And today we will dive deep into this topic, see what the “put a dent in the universe” model really entails, and decide whether it makes business sense or not!

The business logic behind this mantra

So, why has this idea spread like a virus in the startup community?

Well, according to the advocates of this mantra, it’s down to a couple of factors:

Factor #1: Big problems = Big opportunities

I think this is pretty straightforward.

By thinking BIG and trying to tackle problems that affect millions of people, not only will you have the chance to ‘make a difference’ and help people at scale, but if successful, you’ll have a good chance to also cash out, big time.

Factor #2: Some market failures/flaws can only be addressed by radically different prescriptions

By that, our ‘impact entrepreneurs’ friends mean that when a market fails to address a public need/want, building on what’s out there often will NOT do the trick.

And here is where disruptive innovation should come into play! As Steve Jobs suggested a couple of years ago, sometimes you just have to “think different.”

Factor #3: Since most startups don’t make it, at least try to do something that matters

This one comes from another “think big” kind of entrepreneur, our friend Ryan Allis.

Don’t build a silly app that takes sepia-toned photos of cats or an app for sending photos that disappear after 10 seconds. If you’re going to go through the hell of building a startup, you might as well come out the other side having built something that actually made a difference in the world and solved a big problem.

– R.A.

Considering that Ryan’s point is fairly self-explanatory, there is no need to add my two cents. Rather, let’s see a couple of companies that managed to “put a dent in the universe.”

The shining examples of this model

1. Airbnb

How it all started:

Two roommates had a hard time paying their rent for their San Francisco apartment. They were forced to turn their living room into a bed and breakfast and began taking in paying guests.

The “aha” moment:

Well, that happened a couple of days after they hosted their first three guests when they realized that there could potentially be a market for this “hosting model.”

The happy ending:

Airbnb launched a room-letting website that disrupted the traditional hotel industry by allowing “cash-hungry” owners to let/share their homes to short-term renters at low prices.

2. Netflix

How it all started:

Reed Hastings, a math teacher, rented Apollo 13 (a 1995 American space adventure film) from a local video store but was forced to pay $40 in fines for returning the cassette well past deadline.

The “aha” moment:

On his way to gym that day, Hastings convinced himself that there had to be a better way to rent movies and, along with Marc Randolph, co-founded Netflix. The company offers “flat-fee unlimited rentals without due dates, late fees, shipping and handling fees, or per title rental fees.”

The happy ending:

Netflix eventually turned to a streaming media and video-on-demand provider and disrupted traditional television and cable networks by offering people “a wider selection of content with an all-you-can-watch, on-demand, low-price, high-quality, highly convenient approach.”

3. Uber

How it all started:

On a snowy Paris evening in 2008, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp had trouble hailing a cab.

The “aha” moment:

After that experience, Kalanick and Camp came up with the idea of creating a simple app that enables people to catch a ride anywhere using their smartphones. Users submit a trip request by tapping a button on the app and are able to get a ride from drivers who use their own cars.

The happy ending: “

Uber has disrupted the industry by offering something that’s cheaper, easier and modernized. As opposed to hailing a taxi from the sidewalk, fumbling through your pockets for a few dollar bills, and then debating over how much to tip, you simply press a button on an app. All of the payment takes place through the application, so you simply get in and get out.”

With all that said, don’t you think it’s about time for bursting the dent in the universe bubble?

Myth busted: Putting a dent in the universe does NOT make business sense

Yes, you did read that correctly…

Don’t buy the Silicon Valley hype machine and all the serial BS-ers that are out there!

It’s all too easy to “trivialize” problems/ideas and dismiss them as silly, because it happened to not be shockingly big. However, as Simon Gifford reminds here: “Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes – well, at least their businesses do. Sure it is good to have an earth-shattering idea that solves all man’s basic problems, but not everyone fits this category. Renting text books to your faculty at the university, creating a party-finder app, building a bed and breakfast service in your home – these are all perfectly acceptable ventures.

That doesn’t sound as sexy as building the ‘next big thing,’ but the fact of the matter is that companies and entrepreneurs exist to solve ANY problems people are willing to pay to get solved. They are not here to play the hero.

I know, for some this might be hard to accept because they suffer from the messiah complex, but that’s what business is all about…

And in case you wonder why embracing the “go big or go home(less)” model of putting a dent in the universe does not make ANY business sense, it’s simply because time and time again it has been proven to be the key reason why most of today’s startups fail, big time!

The moral of the story?

Disrupting industries and putting dents in the universe might sound like a good idea for ambitious entrepreneurs, but in reality, it’s often the #1 “hack”…for selling yourself and your business short.

My advice?

Scre* the universe, make your own impact, and stop following someone else’s version of success!


Ok guys, that’s all from me for today.

If you enjoyed today’s post, check out my brand new book, The Aspiring Entrepreneur Entry Strategy: A practical Step-by-step guide for finding a validated, winning business idea that stays true to who you are, that is currently available at Amazon.

I hope to see you soon.



“Nodding the head does not row the boat”

– Irish Proverb

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