Dragon and knight

Startups are epic

Trying to visualise what it means to run or work in a startup nowadays, I come to the conclusion that it has a lot in common with … an epic fantasy.

Yeap, epic fantasy – dragons, wizards, heroes and ancient artifacts. At least my startup experience was pretty similar to the excellent RPG session: very intense, constantly challenging but at the same time extremely rewarding, addictive, fascinating and well… often hard to understand by people who are not “in”.

Startup founders are dreamers just as epic fantasy fans. They aim at unimaginably big things. Things like…

Fighting dragons

Some startupers are crazy enough to attempt to defeat some of the worst creatures afflicting humanity or explore forsaken places in search for powerful artifacts.

Just take a look at some of these examples, do they sound like regular 9-5 work challenges?

  • fighting against ineffective transportation systems (Uber),
  • helping you remember anything (Evernote),
  • organizing entire world’s knowledge (Google),
  • instantly connecting people everywhere to what’s matters to them (Twitter).

The way of the warrior

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 14.30.42

The typical fantasy story can go as follows:

  1. Study old volumes and travel around the world in search for new adventures.
  2. Carefully plan the journey.
  3. Train, test your skills in practice and iterate, getting better every day.
  4. Overcome many difficulties and eventually defeat the beast or find the artifact.
  5. Build the kingdom on the founding legend.

On the other hand, maybe not typical, but ideal way of startup:

  1. Search for a relevant problem or strong need.
  2. Design solution.
  3. Gather feedback from users and iterate the solution.
  4. Achieve product-market fit.
  5. Scale up the business.

Close, isn’t it?

Ready to go?

It is a long and winding road.
Most startups fail trying and remain unknown.
Few turn into legends.
Eventually they evolve into kingdoms, empires and guildes shaping the fate of the world.

They achieve unimaginable.

PS Regarding the illustration, I agree that the Witcher is not a good example of epic (or high) fantasy per se. Lord of the Rings would fit much better. Nevertheless, it is fantasy, it is epic – because of its wisdom, sense of humour and addictive storyline – and finally comes from Poland, just as many fantastic startups. I highly recommend you both books and video game (let’s forget about the movie and TV series – maybe one day…).

‘People,’ Geralt turned his head, ‘like to invent monsters and monstrosities. Then they seem less monstrous themselves. When they get blind-drunk, cheat, steal, beat their wives, starve an old woman, when they kill a trapped fox with an axe or riddle the last existing unicorn with arrows, they like to think that the Bane entering cottages at daybreak is more monstrous than they are. They feel better then. They find it easier to live.’
The Last Wish, Andrzej Sapkowski