Over the past three months I’ve been in the lab building Fishtown Analytics. There’s a lot of the company formation process that’s been fun for me. I love checklists, and treated the opening of this business as a really big one.

But there were bigger existential questions that couldn’t be reduced to a simple checklist. For months I mulled over what it was that I was trying to do: Why do I want to start a business? Why consulting? What do I believe about the world that I want the business to embody?

These questions rolled around in the depths of my brain: on walks, on long car drives, and often in the middle of conversations with friends and family (sorry everyone). Eventually I came up with four words that I believe in:

Analytics is a trade.

Here’s what that means to me:

  • I believe that analytics is a flow-state activity. It rewards concentration, attention to detail, and deep experience. I want to build a company that can train and reward this type of work.
  • I believe that people are the most important part of the analytical process. While analytical tools are critical (and we’re building one), they are best used in the hands of an experienced analyst. Anyone can buy a lathe, few can use one well. I want to build a company that puts people at its core.
  • I believe in the dignity of work. Humans are better off if we can express our creative selves through our professions. I want to build a company that creates such opportunities.
  • I believe that businesses should be members of their local communities. I want to build a company with strong geographic roots.

I want to work hard, do valuable things, and get paid for my time. I want to train others to think and work the way that I do. I want to feel tired at the end of the day but know that I accomplished something. I want the business to have deep ties to the community in which it operates.

All of these desires are throwbacks to the trades: small businesses where practitioners spent their days building the things that their communities needed with hammers and chisels.

It turns out I want to create a smithy, not a startup.

In today’s technology ecosystem we fetishize scale, attention, and disruption. I choose, instead, to care about quality, dignity, and community.