Genghis Khan for Startup Founders


I enjoy studying about war and what it takes to win them. Recently, I finished reading "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World".

Most of what he did isn’t possible today. We are more civilized, organized, and respectful in most regions of the planet. Nonetheless, the book contains exciting insights — a helpful read in the world of entrepreneurship and venture capital. The best founders and investors I know are ruthless.

Disclaimer: the book itself is a bit boring, and I skipped a few sections. More productive this way. One doesn’t have to finish a book to call it concluded.

If it starts to get boring, skip parts of it. Life is too short otherwise.

Here are a few thoughts and lessons learned:

  • The Mongol army subjugated more land in 25 years than the Roman Empire did in 400 years
  • Khan built his reputation with the combination of ruthless execution and innovation
  • He organized his army in decentralized autonomous pods (crypto-army?). Provided with strong training soldiers knew what they had to do at all times. This also instilled a strong culture of brotherhood. As Mongols, we are all equal under the “Eternal Blue Sky.”
  • He was one of the most aggressive genocides of all time. If you were of service to a post-Mongol conquered society and abided by simple rules, he would spare you.
  • Under his regime, civilians and the military enjoyed race diversity. Ruled under a monoculture that “kept it all together.” Sounds like San Francisco techies.
  • Once you conquer a new region kill the most powerful and wealthiest people first. The elite isn’t very productive aside from status preservation and useless tradition. This would always set a blank canvas for every new territory he conquered.
  • Regardless of how powerful and wealthy he was, he continued to live a simple life (hello Buffet!). He continued to wear the same clothes and to eat the same food.

To this date, Khan’s is a mystery in people’s minds, and that seems by design. Nobody knows exactly where he was buried.

It is a post-mortem power preservation. Kudos.

"Heaven grew weary of the excessive pride and luxury of China… I am from the Barbaric North. I wear the same clothing and eat the same food as the cowherds and horse-herders. We make the same sacrifices and we share.. our riches. I look upon the nation as a new-born child and I care for my soldiers as though they were my brothers."

— Genghis Khan

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