Just like riding a bicycle

In the tech startup world, there are so many options for what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and who to do it with. I’m talking about building a new high tech business, of course.  Many times, it’s like riding a bike, but that can be good or bad.  So, while this analogy can be applied to many different aspects of life and even to life itself, here I’ll use it for “doing a startup.”  Here goes.

You’ve ridden a bicycle before, right?  Maybe this morning, or maybe 20 years ago, but you’ve ridden a bike at some point.  Think about this: is it easier to steer, to change direction when you’re moving at a normal pace or when you’re going very, very slow?  These days, you see bicyclists at almost every stop light, waiting (sometimes, but that’s for another blog post) for the light to change or the traffic to allow them to proceed.  Some of the really good bicyclists can maintain their balance while barely moving a few inches.  I have to put a foot down or lean against an unwitting car to keep my balance.

A very wise friend once told me that God can only nudge you in a particular direction or open doors for you if you are moving.  Stand still, and you’ll go nowhere. Get on a bike and be still, and you’ll fall over. My point is this: pedal! You have to move in order to go forward and be able to change direction or go in a particular direction.  So, you’re on the startup bike.  What’s wrong? Why don’t you pedal?  There are 5 pretty solid reasons:

  1. I might wreck and get injured – Of course this is the first one, because it’s the most obvious: the fear of failure. Anyone can ride, or learn to ride, a bike. Not everyone can start, grow, build, and run a startup in the high tech world. Simple fact. Not everyone can, or should, try this at home or anywhere else for that matter. But you are on this bike!  Now, when you rode a bike in the past, did you wreck or fall down or run into something? Of course you did. Everyone does. Everyone falls or wrecks and sometimes you draw blood or break a bone.  That particular outcome is a known and assumed risk when anyone gets on a bike.  Same applies to starting a business, especially a high tech business.  Most fail. Did you get that? Most high-tech startups fail.  But just like when you rode a bike as a kid, when you wreck or fall down, you will heal. Your scraped knee will stop bleeding, eventually, and you can choose to get back on the bike.  Failure is not the end of the world in the startup world.  In fact, it’s usually the beginning of another great adventure, and you’ll be smart enough not to try and jump over that particular jump again. GO!
  2. I don’t know how to do this – You don’t know how to ride a bike? Oh, no, you mean you don’t know how to start, grow, build, and run a startup. Well, neither did Jobs or  Gates or Zuckerberg. They are all college drop outs.  You probably know more than they did when they started!  That’s a tough one to accept but it’s probably true. Now, book knowledge and even experience are not guarantees of success, so don’t get a big head. But you know more about how a bicycle works at this point than they did at the same point in their lives.  You know how to pedal. PEDAL! GO!
  3. It’s going to be too hard – Um, yeah, it is. It’s going to be hard, but start pedaling, and you will be very surprised at what knowledge, experience, and instinct you already have that will serve you well as you navigate the startup bike trail…or the highway.  Remember this, too: if it were easy, anyone could and would do it. It’s not easy, but you can do it. GO!
  4. That guy over there rides like 100 miles a day! – If there’s virtually no competition for your product or service, then you’re either brilliant, before your time, or you’re entering a market that has no market.  Ask yourself, and more importantly, ask advisors, friends, and potential customers if there’s a market.  At ATDC and elsewhere, they call this “customer discovery.”  You don’t build a business because you want to build a business. You build a business because there’s pain in some market that you know how to solve.  So, back to the competition.  Yes, you have competitors, and many of them look intimidating. They look professional, buttoned up, strong, fast, smart, but guess what? They’re looking at you thinking the same thing!  That, as they say, is why we actually play the games: somebody’s gotta win, and it isn’t always the superpower. Play the game!
  5. I don’t know which direction to go – You have a vision for your startup, right? No? Ok, if not, then you need to rethink what you’re doing on this bike.  The leader must have a vision, or the organization will die.  Now, you’ve got your vision, go! Get on the bike and start pedaling!  As a believer, a am confident that God does and will direct my steps, sometimes in spite of my plans.  Whether you have that faith or not, if you get on the bike and don’t pedal, you’re going to fall down. So you have to move so you can see what’s around that next corner, across that street, over that hill.  You have to move in order to get somewhere. And, since every startup pivots, you have to know that it’s much easier to steer, to change direction, when you’re moving. So start moving!
Get on the bike, start pedaling, feel the wind in your hair – or blowing hard in your face – and pedal harder!

What do you think?