Attitude towards the Impossible
Something someone said this week reminded me of the self reflection I had couple weeks ago. I was reflecting on how I feel about startups at this stage. I feel that while a startup is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, somehow it doesn’t feel as impossible as one might think. Whether we’ll succeed is still to be seen, but I feel we have as good a chance as anyone to figure things out. We have sufficient resources to attempt to change the world for the better.
Big Companies are Failing
A week or two ago I was sharing my thoughts with my co-founders. We were sitting around discussing strategy and the path forward as we frequently do. There are several big companies trying to get a foothold in the same space we’re in, and I mentioned to the team that these companies are failing. These big companies have spent massive amounts of money, lots of resources, and have no significant traction. Their products didn’t solve a problem for local businesses and didn’t provide a lot of value for consumers. I cautioned the team that we can’t expect to spend money the same way and expect a different result.
The specifics here isn’t relevant to my feeling though. What I realized is that big companies don’t necessarily know what to do. They don’t always have the type of people that make things happen. It’s much harder to steer a giant ship without everything clicking already. Also, many things can be attempted with much less resources as long as you have a great team. These realizations contribute to my feeling that things are not so impossible. Sometimes people might ask “What if certain big company get into the same space?” as if success is guaranteed for big companies. The real challenge for my team and anyone else is whether we can build something people want. Solve that and Goliath is no more.
This week is the first time all 3 of us (Geoff, Kaz, me) went selling door-to-door in our new launch city. I closed my first sale and should be able to close another since the owner referred me to her sister’s shop. What’s clear to me is that we have the local businesses on our side. It’s clear we’re making something they want. That gives me hope since no other companies are doing exactly what we’re doing. However, the challenge remains in changing consumer behaviour and that’s ridiculously hard.
Can you feel both an enormous challenge looming and at the same time see hope in the future? At any point in time, I’m probably on varying scales of both. But it’s because of that I feel a startup isn’t so impossible.
I also recently watched Bill & Melinda Gates’s commencement speech to Stanford grads with transcript here. billg said:
Optimism is often dismissed as false hope. But there is also false hopelessness.
I think that’s how I feel about startups or any insurmountable challenge. Things are insanely hard, but is it really insurmountable? No.
Perhaps like the MDR-TB case, one makes progress towards higher cure rate and perhaps ultimately 100% cure rate. Right now I’m just focused on testing one hypothesis at a time and squeezing as many tests into the same time frame as possible.