January 20, 2014

...Learn TDD with Codemanship

Rain Dances For Start-ups

I'm reading an email from one of those "entrepreneurs" that they have nowadays. In it, she explains how her business idea will succeed because she has successfully identified the key factors that made other start-ups wildly successful.

I LOL, of course. A business has many, many factors, and it's easy with the benefit of hinsdsight to pick out details that you believe made a difference.

The bottom line, though, is that nobody knows why a small (well, tiny) proportion of start-ups perform so much better than the majority. Entrepreneurs rarely duplicate a success, even with all the contacts, expertise, advertising and influence their money can buy them. Even when you're Apple or Microsoft, new products are a lottery.

There are those, though, who claim to know. Tellingly, they do not come with a portfolio of successful start-ups to back up their claims. But, to our shame, as an industry we still too easily buy into them.

Like the medicine men of old, they teach us the dance that will make the rains come and our crops flourish. Like I said, with the benefit of hindsight, it's easy to cherry-pick from the infinite complexities of a technology start-up a handful of factors you claim made the rains come, or a handful of key mistakes you claim angered the gods and killed the harvest.

Sure, if the CEO takes all the money in the bank and spends it on marzipan and Pokemon cards, failure is likely to follow. But most start-ups aren't run so badly as to rule out success, or so well as to guarantee it.

The reality, borne out by mountains of statistics on tech start-ups, is that it really is a crapshoot. There are important things you need to do to stay in the game long enough, but nothing you can do that guarantees you success like a Facebook or a Twitter.

The enlightened farmer doesn't rely on rain dances. The enlightened farmer knows that the rain may never come, and makes other plans.

Posted 7 years, 10 months ago on January 20, 2014