“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
– E.L. Doctorow
If E.L. Doctorow was talking about business today, maybe he’d say the same thing about startups. Running a startup is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. The difference is, unlike writing a novel, in which the creative process is one person with total control, startups require cooperation and participation from many different sources. Startups need people who only see the next 100 feet ahead. Partners, customers, investors. Everybody.
And therein lies the rub.
As entrepreneurs, we take the oath to live the life of the startup, and thrive on only seeing the next 100 feet ahead. We accept that: We will never know everything. We only know right now. And luckily, that’s all there is.
Startups need believers. Brave individuals to step up and walk with us who believe that innovating business (where its broken) is a worthwhile investment. As startups, we hear from potential buyers at well-established large corporations who rave “We love your product! We love your service — and we see a real need for it… let’s touch base next year and see where you’re at”. There’s no guarantee that startups will be here a year from now, so if you like what you see, what’s the risk?
Given that you will never know everything for sure (unless you’re opting out of the race), some of the issues are:
- What’s the cost of waiting?
- Are you waiting (or not waiting) because of the cost of being wrong, or because loud people are yelling at you?
- Is the risk of being wrong unreasonably amplified by part of the market or your team? What if you ignore them and focus on results that matter?
- And have you thought about the costs of waiting too long?
If you don’t, you’ll probably end up last.