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But the smarter they are, the less pressure they feel to act smart.So as a rule you can recognize genuinely smart people by their ability to say things like "I don't know," "Maybe you're right," and "I don't understand x well enough."This technique doesn't always work, because people can be influenced by their environment.The woman in charge of sales was so tenacious that I used to feel sorry for potential customers on the phone with her.You could sense them squirming on the hook, but you knew there would be no rest for them till they'd signed up.An undergrad could build something better as a class project. Online dating is a valuable business now, and it might be worth a hundred times as much if it worked.An idea for a startup, however, is only a beginning.But most of those weren't truly smart, so our third test was largely a restatement of the first.When nerds are unbearable it's usually because they're trying too hard to seem smart.
The Idea In particular, you don't need a brilliant idea to start a startup around.
Above all, they were determined to make a site that was good to use.
No doubt there are great technical tricks within Google, but the overall plan was straightforward.
I can think of several heuristics for generating ideas for startups, but most reduce to this: look at something people are trying to do, and figure out how to do it in a way that doesn't suck.
For example, dating sites currently suck far worse than search did before Google. They seem to have approached the problem by thinking about how to do database matches instead of how dating works in the real world.
You don't need or perhaps even want this quality in big companies, but you need it in a startup. We could bear any amount of nerdiness if someone was truly smart.