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.


Performance Consultants said...

I am a Bopreneur and didn't know it.
I have been searching for companies similar to mine who focus on neglected areas: the rural communities in Africa share the sentiment that they are neglected by governments and private sector, our goal as a company is to respond to their many demands. We have met with many chief of villages and created a business model to work with the rural communities of West Africa.

Thank you for your blog, I will keep reading it.

El Hadji
Performance Consultants, Export to Africa

Matt Austin said...

While I was catching up on your blog, I was struck by the timeliness of this entry. Three days after your explanation of the virtues of focusing on finishing rather than permanence, Unitus closed up shop saying, "The fact that we have become largely unnecessary in the microfinance arena is fantastic news and is a tribute to our generous, enlightened donors and the phenomenal staff at Unitus, who worked tirelessly to validate and refine the microfinance model, and advance the operations of our partners." They accomplished their goals as an organization and will be redeploying their resources in areas with greater potential impact. While I feel bad for the staff of Unitus, I look forward to seeing what they "start to finish" next.

Bopreneur said...

Matt- Another organization that wrapped up was Play Pumps. AidWatch and others have blogged about it. In my mind, they got confused about who was the customer- the user or the funders? Often complicated in an non-profit, and requires a delicate balance.
Hope things are going well in Peru.

Anonymous said...

Liked your post we need frank dialogue not just stroking egos!