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I admire companies that have motives other than just pure profit. Having goals other than maximizing shareholder returns can often be an impediment to a company's competitiveness, but that doesn't mean that it is not useful or good in the greater context. I support the culture and goals that I think ArsDigita used to support: open source software, a free and open dialogue between people. The aD university sounded like a great idea.
However, it is only possible for a company to maintain that kind of ulterior (i.e. non-profit) motive so long as the people in control of the company share those motives. The average shareholder, and even more, the average VC, I think has only one goal in mind: making money.
In some ways, I think aD was a victim of it's own success. Explosive growth necessitated bringing in outside management and capital to keep up, and control was lost. I wonder if this really could have gone any other way? Could you have held on to the company without exte...