Gödel Incompleteness for Startups

An essay that relates Gödel’s incompleteness theorem (along with the Halting Problem) to startup disruption—arguing that all successful startups discover one or more G-statements and extract value by building a formal system around it.

The author argues that due to Cantor’s theorem (inifinity of continuum), companies and markets can be disrupted because there exists an infinite number of G-statements.

Finally, startups should seek unproven, yet true statements that have large potential. Startups that fail either 1) found a false g-statement 2) discovered a small g-statement 3) or failed to execute on extracting value.

  • G-Statement

    An unprovable, but true statement as described in Gödel’s incompleteness theorem. Any formal system will be incapable of capturing all true statements and so there will always be unprovable, but true statements about which the system tries to describe.

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  • Product Work Is a Pursuit of Facts About the User, Market, and Their Problems

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  • Strategy Bugs

    Like software bugs, strategy bugs are a failure of understanding of how the real world works and the value your product creates. They also have varying degrees of severity—some which should be solved right away and some which can slowly accumulate without significant harm.

  • Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem

    A formal system (one that is consistent never yields a false statement) can not also be a complete system (containing all true statements)–there will always be statements that are unprovable yet true (i.e. G-statement).

  • Conjecture Is Vital to Product Development

    Product development tends to overlook the importance of conjecture. Lean startup and similar ‘lean’ movements create a culture of empiricism—only that which can be measured must be true. This might make sense for optimizing mature products, but a culture of empiricism leads to an incremental approach to building new products and, at best, leads to finding a local optima.