Steal like an Artist

Ravi Kurani
5 min readJun 25, 2022


A 1960s Tunisian folk song turned top viral hit on TikTok.

How can we innovate by remixing the past with the present and future?

Backstory — real quick.

I’ve been addicted to this TikTok video. It’s of a Vietnamese guy (I think?) who is leading a dance troupe in a park.

This one 👇

I came across a video analysis from Derrick Gee (@gee_derrick) that really hit home, mostly because it reminded me of one of my favorite books from Austin Kleon that I’ve written about here and here, Steal Like an Artist.

Austin writes,

Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous ideas.

Take note of that quote, now back to Derrick.

Derrick Gee, who on his website says he is a, DJ, selector, radio host and content creator.

This guy 👇

Starts his TikTok analysis video with a quote from Grimes (the musician once married to Elon Musk, for you techies who don’t listen to her music).

She says:

“Musicians are basically having an endless conversation with artists from the past, present, and the future.”

Long story short, Derrick talks about how the song featured in the TikTok trend is Ma Baker from Boney M.

Interestingly, the music track was inspired by Frank Farian’s assistant (Hans-Jörg Maye) walking in Tunisia and coming across a popular Tunisian folk song called Sidi Mansour.

Sidi Mansour

A bit of inception, crazy.

We’re watching a viral TikTok video of a Vietnamese guy leading a dance troupe, mashed with a 1977 Boney M song, which was inspired by a Tunisian folk song.

Austin Kleon was right when he wrote:

All creative work builds on what came before.

So, how does this relate to business & innovation in companies?

We should dig into the past and the recent present to see what we can build in the future. Per Austin, all ideas have been built by remixing parts of the past.

Businesses (or products) mirror what their users want.

Follow my train of thought here for a second.

People have problems.

They look for solutions.

Companies build products which are solutions to people’s problems.

Caveats being:

  • Everyone doesn’t have the same problem, obviously. (your niche market)
  • There are limits to how much you would spend on solving said problem. (the price point)

When people buy products they are designing a better version of themselves.

They usually will have an emotional end-game with why they’re buying a product and then switch to a logical “can I afford this?” question.

Ethos leads before logos in decision making.

Every new product today is just a remix of one from the past.

Riffing off of Grime’s quote of “musicians are basically having an endless conversation with artists from the past, present, and the future.” Lets look at some of the most valuable companies today and what conversations they’re having with the past.

Hand picking the top 4 out of 10 companies:

  1. Apple
  2. Saudi / Aramco
  3. Amazon
  4. Tesla

Apple. Apple Inc. is an American hardware and software developer and technology company that develops and sells computers, smartphones and consumer electronics as well as operating systems and application software. Apple also operates internet sales portals for music, films and software.

Apple has made it more efficient to keep in touch with people (what we used to do on phones), conduct business (what we used to do on paper and banks), and listen to music / watch TV (what we used to do on CD players and cable TV).

Saudi/Aramco. Saudi Aramco is the Saudi Arabian national petroleum and natural gas company. As of 2020 it is the largest oil producing company in the world and has the world’s second-largest proven crude oil reserves.

Oil obviously provides the fuel that we need to conduct said business. Solar and other energy sources are coming online, but oil has been the energy source of choice for the last 150 years.

Amazon., Inc. is an American multinational technology company which focuses on e-commerce, cloud computing, digital streaming, and artificial intelligence.

Amazon helps us get the goods that we need, once we used to walk into a store or a Walmart, and now with more advanced technologies for shipping we’ve flipped that narrative. We don’t go to the goods, the goods come to us.

Tesla. Tesla, Inc. is an American automotive and clean energy company based in Austin, Texas. Tesla designs and manufactures electric vehicles, battery energy storage from home to grid-scale, solar panels and solar roof tiles, and related products and services.

Tesla is doing what we’ve done for the last 100 years: transport. Moving people and goods from A to B. The energy substitute of gas is a direct hit against the Saudi Aramco market cap, as gas is the main source of energy, today — and Elon hopes to have clean energy take that over.

The conclusion

As we innovate, look around you. Even though we think we’re at the ‘precipice’, there will always be problems to solve and ideas to remix.

Steal Like an Artist.

Music I was listening to while I wrote this

Way Out — FKJ

This is day 32of my #90DayOfProse challenge.