I don’t understand how this start-up business works.

You have an idea. You get excited about it. Some people say nice things to you, and some people don’t say nice things to you. You build something. You test your ideas. You get feedback. Some of it’s good. Some of it’s bad. There’s a group of smart individuals who might give you advice if you work hard enough to gain their attention. Some of those smart folk might offer you money.

It’s a journey.

But no matter what happens, 90% of start-ups fail. And nobody can predict winners in a reliable or valid way. Not even Mark Cuban. He passed on Bouqs! He gets it wrong a lot!

But it’s not just Mark Cuban. Put three start-ups on a wall and ask an expert to pick a winner. Then ask a monkey with a dart to predict the winner. Guess what? Human beings are worse forecasters than dart-throwing monkeys.

So, I often ask myself why I’m trying to launch a start-up. Why jump through hoops? Why ask for feedback? Why pretend like I can forecast the future and predict the needs of my target market?

Well, why not?

I just met with someone who said, “This is America. You gotta take a swing. It should be a calculated swing, though.”

Agree, but let’s not pretend that our swings are as deliberate and thoughtful as we think they are. There’s a science to saying yes, but if you’re Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo, your batting average is .292. You can successfully hit fewer than 3 out of 10 balls and still lead your team to the World Series.

(And you can be Jon Lester, a pitcher with a .105 batting average, and still blow the roof off the place and hit a home run.)

So, to summarize, I don’t understand how this start-up business works. I don’t know how winners and losers are chosen, and I’m not sure why bad ideas are scooped up early, but good ideas die on the vine.

All I know is that I have an idea that was actually inspired by research. And I have friends who are rooting for me, will help me build out the body of knowledge to support it, and will help me raise some money in 2017.

This is America. You gotta take your swing. I’m taking mine. How about you?

4 Responses to The Start-Up Business
  1. Martin Snyder

    You seem to understand it quite well. You might find insight studying evolutionary biology- many of the mechanisms of selection and growth are direct analogues. For the past 25 years people have tended to think of startups only in the sense of digital businesses (since virtually every business now has a digital core) but that environment wasn’t always so and won’t always be.

    For my part, I prefer the mediocre middle of the food chain. Being an apex predator is glorious, but the slightest changes below can send you into the dustbin of history. Being plankton is far safer, but not very interesting. Being a small, clever mammal who can migrate and survive in different ways seems charming enough….but anyone can get picked off or disrupted by a major environmental change.

    Who will succeed or fail is an emergent question that cannot be predicted, although Bayesian thinking can analyze inputs and outputs as time goes by to help narrow the randomness.

    Those that attract others and show signs of vitality and ability to draw sufficient resources from the environment will do best 😉

  2. William Tincup

    “you seem like a nice lady”

  3. Tom O'Dea

    Remember, there are only 2 ways for a startup to fail:

    (1) The founders quit.
    (2) Unpayable debts are called.

    Every other reason is bullshit. Don’t quit, and don’t take on debt you aren’t sure you can pay back.

  4. Branigan Robertson

    I’ve often wondered myself how some people seemingly strike gold while others flounder. I’m sure the issue could be dissected and analyzed ad nauseam, but based on some of my own observations, I’ve noticed success often comes to people who aren’t afraid of risk and failure. Sometimes these folks even shoot from the hip. To be clear, these people can cause messes. The point is often times they don’t get bogged down with cleaning those messes up. It might work to their advantage. For the record, I prefer calculated risk.