March 6, 2015
In a post written a couple of days ago, Omniref cofounder and CTO Montana Low wrote a blog post sharing his belief that startups and babies actually have a lot of similarities. Dubious as the comparison may sound, the analogy (and the accompanying story and reasoning behind this comparison) received a lot of praise on Reddit for how weirdly accurate it all seemed. Considering that Low himself has founded two Y Combinator-backed companies (Omniref and Tomo previously), he’s got a lot of experiences upon which to reflect. In the post itself, Low actually makes the analogy that starting a family in general is very much like starting a company (with the startup being the baby, obviously), and he breaks it down into 6 main similarities:
1. Find the right partner
“50% of marriages end in divorce and 62% of startups fail because of founder conflicts. Some people find life long love at first sight, but after having an open look at a couple hundred other startups across my two YC batches, it’s become clear to me that the most important decision you’ll make for your progeny is the partner you choose.”
According to Low, very much like a good marriage or partnership, you need to find the right cofounder to get into business with. He points out that this probably the most important step in the process. I mean, it would be awful to end up marrying someone only to discover five years later that divorce is inevitable and you’ll have to decide on primary custody over your child; for cofounders, starting off on the right foot and learning to work through issues as a team will help to avoid potentially ruining your startup’s future.
2. Don’t lose hope until you’ve learned everything
“I’ve been to a few VC meetings with a similar tragic feel as that doctor’s office. They’ve got lots of experience looking at babies like yours and have screening tests to indicate what’s going to be a success and what isn’t.”
Reflecting back on his wife’s first ultrasound, Low recounts how that first visit to the doctor to check on the health of his baby was similar to the experience of attending VC meetings. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of getting all the facts and data to assure you that the problem you’re dealing with may not actually be as big or indeed even a problem in the first place.
3. Launch too early, then get noisy
Babies are born as underdeveloped human beings – not yet fully at their prime stage; hence, they make a lot of noise out of frustration, happiness, or some other confused emotion that they themselves haven’t yet figured out. Over time, these babies respond to the people around them and the environments in which they’re expose. Similarly, Low writes that it’s necessary for startups to get out into the world underdeveloped: release and MVP and slowly develop your product to where you want it to be. In order for your startup to reach its optimum potential, y0u need to give your product actual experience in the real world – to have people interact with it, critique it, and help you develop it.
4. You won’t have to deal with poop forever
“As your company grows, and your customer base expands beyond forgiving early adopters into the real market, you might find that some jobs start to stink a little more. It will make your eyes water at times, but once you’ve got your hands in it, it just becomes another job.”
When babies are first born, they poop…and they poop a lot. Low argues that while poop is messy to deal with, you won’t have to deal with it forever. Eventually, babies and startups alike will grow out of it. There may be certain procedures or jobs at your company that you won’t necessarily be pleased about doing at first (such as spending hours going above and beyond to provide customer service), but eventually you’ll develop new methods to deal with those kinds of issues or tasks.
5. Stop looking around and paying too much attention to other babies
Stop comparing your baby/startup to other babies/startups out there. Every startup is different – their routes, their developments, and their paths to success. It would certainly be unfair both for you and your baby if you constantly compare them to other children. Instead of comparing your startup to the startup that managed to raise a half a million dollars pre-launch, consider your own startup’s metrics and look towards the long-term goals of your company.
6. Keep track of your baby/startup
“Startups and babies are stressful. You’ll never stop thinking about them, if you’re doing it right. You’ll wake up every night to a screaming fit, until one night you wake up and he’s not screaming, so you have to go check on him to make sure he’s still alive. Install a baby monitor so you can always check on the most important thing without getting out of bed. Instrument all your core metrics and create a dashboard or daily summary email. Sleep easier knowing how things are, and what you need to work on.”
Image: Flickr / peasap (modifications made)
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