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Why Scaling Up Always Hurts | Pete Bell

Children grow up so fast. But few parents have marveled at the growth of their offspring the way Pete Bell has. The company he co-founded in 1999, Endeca, grew from a tinker toy model in a dorm room to a data company bought by Oracle in the largest Massachusetts acquisition of 2011. “In everyday life, you don’t usually see that kind of growth,” Pete says. “Nothing doubles, and doubles, and doubles again. And it only takes one doubling to break things.”

Pete thinks that while people want their ideas to grow, they’re often unprepared for the experience. He certainly was. Before founding Endeca, he had worked on another, less successful start-up. “It was much smaller — we went through only four doublings. But it was still painful.” It was only when he saw a pattern repeating that he realized the pain wasn’t something the company was doing wrong — it was a structural fact, an inevitable process of a system adjusting to scale.

“The spirit of TED is ideas that people can relate to,” he says. “In Boston there are a lot of people interested in how to take their ideas and make them grow. There’s not a lot of useful advice on that out there.” As we each think about the things we nurture and grow from ideas to action, remember Pete’s talk and be prepared for some challenging multiplication.