SXSWi: Scott Belsky of Behance on achieving online meritocracy

Scott Belsky is Co-Founder of Behance, an innovative web platform for showcasing and discovering creative work. He spoke at SXSWi 2013 about how meritocracy, innovation, and access to opportunity are not natural to the web. Some notes/thoughts from his talk —

The web is verticalizing and isolating itself because it can. But innovation happens in cross pollination. 95% of creatives follow creatives in a field other than their own. 50% of creatives publish a portfolio in a field other than their own. Behance wants to host the overlap and prompt innovation.

While most have it upside down, our focus as creatives or as anyone seeking audience penetration and connection should be on critical versus credible mass. In a web increasingly fractured and with niche audiences as numerous as the grains of sand in a dune, how many like something is far less important than who likes something. The credible mass may be the most direct route to meritocracy.

Does this imply a data-driven perpetual talent audition on the Web? It would seem that the answer, in many cases, is yes.

Another interesting comment Belsky made was about attribution. He said without attribution, opportunity is clearly lost, and the web is currently very poor at attribution. That is something to keep in mind with our own web strategies, not moving so fast that we forget to clearly attribute/identify source.

Some startup lessons from Belsky’s experience at Behance.

  • We had no idea what we were doing, but we were tenacious learners and fixers, demonstrating the importance of initiative over experience.
  • The problem with capital as a goal is, if you raise it too quickly you may get too incentivized to continue doing something you do not love. We are all largely conditioned to be incentivized by short-term rewards. The two greatest addictions in the world are heroin and a weekly salary.
  • Make peace with the relative joy of entrepreneurship. After the initial high there is almost always a cliff to drop off of before beginning a slow climb. Aspire for a positive slope with little micro wins. The peak and valley cycle is a reality for most, but as long as you can achieve a continuous progression in spite of the ups and downs, you’re succeeding.
  • What you agree to do, do right. If you give your consent, commit.
  • Learn to gain confidence from being doubted. Know the difference between cynics and skeptics. Nothing extraordinary is ever achieved from ordinary means.


Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply