My wife and I were blessed to attend the retirement celebration of the founder of my son’s school here in Roswell. She and her husband were both teachers, but 30 years ago, they had a vision of a different kind of school that not only brought to light the failure of public schools but thrived on taking the kids that public schools labeled as failures and gave them confidence, direction, purpose, and everything else they needed to become valuable contributions to society.
Thirty years. That’s an incredibly long time to do anything, and to do it with excellence for that amount of time is amazing. She shared with us tonight that they started with a card table and some chairs and three students. During the following 30 years, more than 1000 students have graduated from The Cottage School. That is what we call taking the long view.
I’ve been part of the tech startup community since my first job out of B-school at ADAM Software back in the late 90s. If I had a dollar for every time I heard (or said) something to the effect of selling in 3-5 years, I’d easily pay for my kids’ college. It’s amazing to me how easy it is and how often we fall into the Instagram trap, despite the incredible odds against such things ever happening, rather than taking the long view.
When we go through the Lean Startup process, Eric Ries reminds us constantly that a startup is not a business, but an experimental learning machine, dedicated to discovering the business opportunity, business model, and most of all, the customer need. Then, and only then, do we have a business, and then we have to execute, which is far more difficult than finding everything else! But yet “the startup” remains this sexy bright shiny object that we’re attracted to, even though we know that 9 out of 10 tech startups is going to fail.
Instead, we should be taking the long view. Not the long view of “doing a startup and getting acquired in 3-5 or 5-7 years”, but the long view of building something that will last for generations, something our kids and their kids can be a part of. Something we can celebrate 30 years after starting it, and be see the fruits of our labor in the thousands of people impacted by the thing that we built along the way.