Victus Spiritus


The Startup School Bus

24 May 2010

The Awakening

After what feels like an eternity of uneasy rest your alarm forces you out of bed just long enough to get a loose shoe thrown at it, quieting it's annoying siren.
You may work at one job or many, but are never satisfied with the way things are run, the product development, or the long term goals of the company. It's path is too well set or far beyond your influence to adjust.

Eventually your mom kicks you out of bed and after a hurried morning prep you're out the door dashing after a bus which is quickly vanishing out of sight.
An instinct you can hardly identify as self leads to an feeling of dissatisfaction with your work. After months, years or even decades of searching for an answer, your mind crisply locks on to the pattern of startup formation.

The bus driver hits the breaks, slides open the door, and welcomes you aboard with a sarcastic gesture. The driver reminds you of every person you've ever known. You step up what appears to be an endless set of stairs without a hint of exhaustion.
Without concern for failure you follow an internal compass which never ceases spinning towards the will of the people. The direction of destiny is far from stable, but your steadfast resolve and awareness breathe ever more life and reality into the business which once resided only in your imagination.

You're not alone on this bus, there are many on their way to school. Some older and wiser, others just starting out. But some of you exchange notes and cluster together in different sections of the bus.
Early partnerships with cofounders immediately make the impossible merely unlikely. Connecting and learning with other startups at various phases helps clarify resource allocation and frame impractical problems.

The bus stops off to refuel along the long journey to school. How odd that the driver asks some students to hand over their homework, while they give other students free lunch passes.
Somewhere along the way, the startup either has to charge customers and/or seek external free capital to be risked on expanding it's potential reach and size. Early revenue or ownership shares are the fuel to a startup's growth trajectory, each source has a lasting impact on the future success of the business

At random intervals along the way to school, the driver stops and let's students off, leaving only a few of you on board. Perhaps another bus will come along shortly?
Most startups fade quickly under pressure, never surviving to an investment phase or sustainable revenue. A rare few keep pushing and struggling for survival.

A section or two of the bus is filled with the buzz of students exchanging notes rapidly. The driver both nods in approval and appears frustrated simultaneously. The bus stops suddenly, one section of students stands and leaves and walks into a private school.
Users and customers split their approval of growing startups. Businesses which invoke no emotional reaction have little chance of capturing any market. The choices a startup makes early on are the seed for their identity and brand. On the road to becoming real larger businesses may find great value in the work a startup is accomplishing. Even before a startup is self sustaining, it may be acquired.

The bus finally comes to a halt at the steps of a huge public school. Your section of students strides proudly off the bus, you've made it to school.
If you lead with both energy and wisdom, and gather a sharp team that takes responsibility for their areas of expertise, you just may be lucky enough to elevate your startup to a profitable point. It may have grown far beyond the original founding team and include many new partners and investors with varying degrees of risk and stake.