In my experience, working on a startup should be like working in a pressure cooker. Just as pressure cookers speed up the process of cooking, your startup should be racing towards success (or failure). In the end, you don’t know if your food will come out tasting terrible or delicious, but at least it got there fast.
The two key elements that make pressure cooking possible is heat and pressure. In a pressurized vessel, the temperature of a liquid boils at a much higher temperature allowing it to cook at a much faster rate. This got me thinking about what key elements cause startups to “cook” faster:
- Add a couple of Founders: If you’re working on an idea as the sole founder, you’re only accountable to yourself. And while it might be very satisfying to know that your accomplishments are yours alone, you need other co-founders to maximize your potential. You need someone to bounce ideas off of each other and to tell you when ideas are good or bad. If you have no one to discuss bad ideas with, you’ll inevitably act on them and waste a lot of time to figure out that it was a bad idea in the first place. I’m not saying this is a foolproof plan to avoid bad ideas, but you might cut down on half of them, which is a lot because we all have a ton of bad ideas. Not only that, but having co-founders is a great way to keep each other accountable. All of the founders rely on each other for the collective success of the group. The added pressure that a co-founder puts on an, otherwise sole, founder makes things move faster.
- Mix in some Investors: Along a similar vein as having co-founders, having someone invest time and money into your startup adds another layer of pressure to the startup concoction. Suddenly, there is someone outside of your startup who has a vested interest in your success. Not only that, but that someone has a vast network of resources to make things go faster. You might think the contrary, but the more resources you have available to you, the more pressure there is to make the right decisions and succeed. After all, you don’t have any excuses for failure now, right?
- Add Money for Taste: Money can be a powerful motivator, both when you lack it and when you have it. When you lack money, there is a desperation to earn more of it. When you have it, there is a constant battle to figure out how best to use it. Both can help push a company to the brink of success or failure faster than the first two “ingredients”.
- Past Failures: If you have a few failures under your belt, there is no doubt that there is a chip on your shoulder. In the eyes of your family and friends, you are likely teetering on the line that divides an entrepreneur and a fool. Sometimes that line is so thin that it’s hard to tell yourself sometimes. But with each failure, the pressure inside the pressure cooker jumps up a notch. And with each new venture you are quicker to identify what works and what doesn’t.
- Location: Startups gravitate to Silicon Valley for a reason. Silicon Valley is rich with money and talent and is considered by many to be the Mecca of startups. It can be overwhelming and downright incestuous at times, but you can’t deny the history of success found there. When you’re in Silicon Valley, everybody is talking about the next big thing and you can’t help but be motivated to actually be that big thing. Just by being in Silicon Valley makes you feel like you have to get some million-dollar valuation on a half-built prototype that you developed with something called “html”. For better or for worst, Silicon Valley makes things move faster.