The Startup Grind

The Startup Grind

Startup Grind

It has been quite a journey so far for our young entrepreneur.  He still feels “lucky” to have the opportunity to pursue his passion at such a young age, but some of the realities of the startup life (listed below) have certainly challenged him.  We call it the startup grind for a reason.

  • Incremental pace of new product developments
  • Working alone most of the time
  • Lack of young entrepreneurial peers in the area
  • Friends have gone to college in cities hours away
  • General feeling of a lack of accomplishment (his opinion relative to his expectations)

He is in the startup grind.  I’ve described the startup process as a month of jubilation at the launch and, hopefully, again at the end if there is a buyout event.  These periods of jubilation are bookends of a process that includes several years on the roller coaster of long hours, accelerated education, frustration, exciting breakthroughs, tremendous financial pressure, periods of feeling isolated, wonderful new connections and relationships, and fatigue.  It’s a lot to handle for a teenager and nearly impossible if not surrounded by true mentors, advisors, and resources for support.

He continues to display the resilience and drive necessary to push through the grind with his core values intact.  While this experience so far has certainly taken a toll on him at times with periods of negativity and poor diet and exercise habits, he continues to assess, adjust and make good decisions.  He knows he has much more to learn.  My observation is that he has adapted many of the Lean Canvas concepts we teach in product development to his development as a man and entrepreneur.  Pretty cool!

As Joshua, and others in the startup grind, continue(s) to survive and advance, his mother and I would like to share this prayer by General Douglas MacArthur that expresses much of our sentiment regarding our wish for him and all those on the entrepreneurial journey.

A Prayer For My Son

Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee — and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goals will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, give him, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength.

Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”

General Douglas MacArthur

Space Exploration and High Tech Startups

Space Exploration and High Tech Startups

Failure

I was listening to the Science Friday program on the radio while driving in the car recently.  The topic was space exploration and it reminded me just how similar it is to the world of high tech startups.  As many of you know, I worked for NASA and in the aerospace business for 13 years and I still have a passion for that mission.  Here are a few examples of the similarities between space exploration and high tech startups.

First, cutting edge technology is inherently risky.  Opportunities for failure abound.  Many times we make design decisions with the best information available but it is still not enough to make us comfortable or confident about the result.

The launch of a new high tech product by a startup can be spectacular or disastrous.  Similarly, while we do all we can to mitigate the risk, the reality is that a rocket launch is a controlled explosion.  I remember looking at the massive, miles long strands of cable in the belly of one of the Shuttles and thinking “how does this thing ever get off the ground”.

Finally, there is the constant battle between quality, time and cost.  If any one of those elements gets out of balance the risk of failure increases exponentially, whether it’s the production of a high tech consumer product or a spacecraft.

I was at the Kennedy Space Center the morning that Challenger exploded killing seven astronauts.  It was the result of an inherently risky endeavor thrown catastrophically out of balance by the pressure to meet a launch schedule and minimize cost.  Political and schedule pressure drove NASA’s launch decision, despite ice hanging off the spacecraft and design engineer’s concerns that critical rocket hardware had never been tested in those conditions.

I understand catastrophic failure.

THE TAKEAWAY   Young entrepreneurs: what you do is fraught with the risk of failure.  Take the risk anyway.  No matter whether you succeed or fail, you learn.  Constant learning is part of the process.  Keep it all in perspective.  As long as no one dies, it’s all good and we live to fight another day.

Parents of young entrepreneurs: The most difficult thing we will do is watch your kids fail.  Again, it is part of the process of learning how not to do something, developing the maturity to handle it, and keeping it in perspective.  Just don’t let them hit the ground so hard that they can’t get up.  We want them to test their will, but not break it.  Limits testing is part of the design process.  These young entrepreneurs are designing products and we are helping them design the kind of person they will be.