Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Starting to Finish

Past IDDS'er Joe Agoada has been on the road in Africa, bringing the World Cup to school children in remote areas. The tour will end with the World Cup finals. Joe's recent update on Kampala 2 Capetown got me to thinking.

Often, we think of a start-up as a "built to last" organization- one that should endure and persist. But initiatives like Joe's are also instructive. Start ups can be events and tours (a series of events). They still have business models, just ones with a set finish line. The metaphors come from movies, sports, and "special forces" in the military. Perhaps more start ups should start this way- without the assumption of permanence. Ceasing to exist is often what happens to a start up, but it isn't something that is usually planned or discussed openly. A venture's planned obsolescence is rarely a section in a business plan.

Their are many implications for founders and funders. Less time spent planning and more time doing. The goal of finishing, not continuing. At the end, people are paid off and move on to the next venture. Instead of staying together and hoping that lightning will strike twice for the same team.

This doesn't mean that the venture can't shape shift and become more permanent. Successful events become fixtures- whether Burning Man, the World Cup or the Rolling Stones. But this could be an approach that is based on evolution instead of planning. Design focused on the organization, not the strategy. And it would be paradoxical if the behavior of "starting to finish" leads to behavior that is more likely to lead to survival: faster, leaner, more responsive start ups.

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