Archive for September, 2009

Is it urgency or homework that will make your start-up a success?

September 23, 2009

The most common, and seemingly most sage advice from successful entrepreneurs is to "just do it".  Launch into your venture with unquestioned urgency and commitment, without it your enterprise is doomed!  That seems right, and yet there is another side to the coin we should all say out loud.

Most startups will fail.

If you're trying to build a tech company it's a particulary dicey proposition, and you owe it to your family, friends, and any employees to read this book: High Tech StartUp.  It's a sobering book full of facts, figures, and reality that anyone hoping to succeed as a startup needs to deal with eyes wide open.

The point is not that a passionate person with an idea and a dream should not pursue it with full commitment; indeed how else to succeed?  How else to change, to better the world!  However, there are other factors every entrepreneur would benefit from looking at coldly & rationally.

Imagine you decide to be a surfer and catch a wave.  So I give you, and thousands of others like you, a boat ride out to the middle of the ocean, no land in sight.  Everyone starts paddling in various directions with great enthusiasm, hoping a wave will rise up behind them and give them a glorious ride to shore.

"Wait," you say, "which way is best to paddle?  Where is shore and which direction will the waves come from?"

"Is a wave coming soon?  Or will my arms be tired and as limp as spaghetti noodles when a wave finally arrives?"

"When a wave comes, will I be close enough to shore for it to break and carry me?"

"Will the wave be strong enough to carry me?"

"Will the wave be ridable, or will it break all at once?"

"Will it throw me on the rocks, only for others to see and learn from my mistakes and ride successfully?"

All I can say is that these seem like good questions.

Riding waves, whether in innovation or in the ocean, is hard.  This endeavor takes great fortitude, persistence, self-belief, and endurance, but it only works if you are in the right place at the right time.

Luck favors the bold and confident, but rarely the foolish.  You have a much better chance at success if you know where you are and learn to read the ocean around you.

Then, when you have made your mark, you will have your chance to tell all the hopeful paddlers in the middle of the ocean that it is about a sense of urgency.  

As your professor would say, urgency is a necessary but not sufficient condition.  Do your homework.

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