Friday, August 2, 2013

Fail fast!

I've heard the expression "fail fast" as advice for a startup. I begin to understand. In a sense, my success for five years in running my R&D startup was a case of failing too slowly. In fact, the reality is I was working on the research and formulating the ideas that eventually became my startup for years before establishing a business account. Properly speaking it was far more than five years.

One lesson I learned was to separate the vehicle from the driver. One difficulty I have had is that I identify quite personally with the research that became my startup. That's a problem in itself. Years ago, in the midst of building the first iteration of my company, I devised a metaphor that the company was simply a vehicle that I drove around in, that the important parts, my ideas, my passions, my experience, my knowledge, those were all things I kept in the glove box or the trunk. Once the vehicle got old and tired, I'd just take those things out, and move to a new vehicle.

While it's a good metaphor, I wasn't ready to learn the lesson I was teaching! That's because the company I was building was too intimately entwined with the research. Rather than keeping those items in the trunk, I had put them in the fuel tank! I was running the company on them.

I've started over again. One thing I've realized lately is that it's never too late to learn something new. I've been dusting off my programming skills, and decided to revisit mathematics after a 30 year hiatus. I've been sold on MOOCs, currently taking three classes on Udacity, and enrolled to begin one on Coursera later this month.

I'm advising a couple startups that other people have founded, and working on two different new ideas for startups I'm in the process of founding. The tech startup I founded 5 years ago is still around, but I've put it on the back burner for now, as I rebuild my chops. I'll jump start it again, when I'm ready to fail fast (or skyrocket).

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