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Startups are like rowing


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Everyone is thinking about startups. It is easier than ever to start a company. The freedom... The payoff....
But do you really know what it takes to succeed?
This presentation draws from on lessons from rowing, one of the toughest sports out there, and applies them to successful startups.

Startups are like rowing

  1. WHY SUCCESSFUL STARTUPS ARE LIKE ROWING How getting up early and sitting backwards can prepare you for startups Daniel Stevenson
  2. First, let’s get one thing straight Not all rowing is created equal Big galley ships are like entrenched competitors. Adding more people (rowers) doesn’t make them any faster. And individual rowers don’t see any results from rowing harder. But put the eight fastest rowers into a boat and look out. Now the average performance is closer to the top performer. NOTE: See Paul Graham’s excellent essay – HOW TO MAKE WEALTH – for more on this topic.
  3. Recruiting is like team tryouts In startups your first 5 or 10 employees are your most critical. You want to know everyone can pull their weight. In rowing, you look for technical ability, strength and mental fitness. Culture matters. You are putting your team (startup) first. There is no room for a prima-donna in a boat (startup).
  4. IN A STARTUP EVERYONE CONTRIBUTES You can’t hide in the boat. There are no off-strokes in a race.
  5. AND TECHNIQUE MATTERS In rowing it’s LEGS  BACK  ARMS Do it wrong (or too fast) and you STOP the boat In startups it’s AUDIENCE  CUSTOMERS  PRODUCT Understand customer pains before you build
  6. YOU MAY NOT KNOWWHERE YOU ARE GOING In rowing you can’t see where you are going, but you are guided by a visionary (coxswain) and you just work (pull) hard
  7. PRACTICE AND PERSEVERANCE PAYS OFF Rowers will put in hundreds of hours of practice and conditioning for a single, seven minute race. There are rarely “quick hits” in the startup world.
  8. MAKE EVERY STROKE COUNT Rowers, like entrepreneurs, get up early to get a jump on the competition.
  9. PULL TOGETHER AND EVERYONE WINS Hard work, focus and good team dynamics will get you over the finish line first. And remember, if you don’t have the passion for startups, you are not going to win. Daniel Stevenson