Last night I went to the Basilica Block Party featuring Death Cab for Cutie, American Authors, X Ambassadors, and other bands across multiple stages. With my work in the start-up community, I can’t help but think of the similarities between a start-up and a band.
For a band, it works like this… You get your buddies together and start jamming. You are mostly not too good at first, but you enjoy the experience and keep at it. Eventually you start putting some music out there. It probably stinks. Time passes. But you get better and put more music out there for the public to hear. You may evolve into something different. Some people enjoy it and pretty soon you have your first 20-50 fans. These people tell their friends. You continue to get better and refine your sound. You put more music out there and more people listen. The snowball grows. People tell their friends. You get better. And gradually you start selling more records and going to bigger venues. And after some time, you are big and wonder what the heck happened. You go from playing for 10 people in a bar to singing in huge sold out arenas. Think Billy Joel, Beatles, Mumford. Then more often than not, you get replaced. Everybody gets replaced. (except U2, Paul McCartney, and very few others).
For a start-up, it works like this… You get your buddies together and start jamming on ideas. Think the jam session with Travis Kalanick and friends. You decide on something and start building. It is not good at first and for first time entrepreneurs, you are not good at first, but you enjoy creating something new and keep at it. Eventually you put out your MVP. It usually stinks, but if you’re not embarrassed, you’ve shipped too late. You may pivot here. But you get better and put more features out there and a better product and your first customers sign-up. These people tell their friends. You get better at building a great product and more people sign-up and tell their friends. The snowball grows. You build a better product, get more customers, raise money, and hire. People tell their friends. You get better. And gradually you start selling more and getting more traction. And after some time, you are big, reach product market fit, and wonder how did I get here. You go from 10 users to millions of users. Life is good. You are killing it. But then you get replaced. Everybody gets disrupted. Silicon Graphics, Digital, Kodak, it is easy to name a high flying tech darling that has fallen from grace. There are few exceptions (except GE, Google?)
With start-ups and a band, it is all just a journey of finding your fit.