Start with fiction

While many startups are new versions of existing ideas, in our quieter moments all entrepreneurs would freely admit they wouldn’t mind changing the world. Me included.

If we want to do this, then one of the most important things we can do is ignore the facts.

Facts specialise in yesterday. They are by definition an historical account of what we understood or what happened. Even science continues to disprove previously held scientific facts – the most recent being the quantum revolution, which among other things has proven that atoms can be in more than one place at the same time.

In startups we should start with fiction. An imagined world of what we’d like to see or create. We need to remember that the concept of ‘what works’ is by definition really, only what has worked. That ‘the way it is’, can only actually be about the way it was. And ‘the way to do it’, is really just a way in which it has been done.

Our job as entrepreneurs is really about turning today’s fiction into tomorrows facts. While this doesn’t mean we should go live with the fairies, it does mean we should sometimes ignore the so called rational.


Scribbles from a note pad

Yesterday I was cleaning the remnants of 2012 from my desk when I found an old note pad. I was flicking through and found some thoughts and ideas I had written down during meetings, while listening to some talks and just reading articles. While many of them are ‘oldies’ I still think some are worth sharing and creating a digital foot print for.

– Being busy is not the same as being effective.

– We should begin every project as if there is no budget.

– 1 billion dollars laid flat in $100 bills would fill a 1 meter deep 1300 meter square space. (Swimming pool?)

– To get a good answer, we need to ask a great question.

– The average Australian has 1 testicle (be careful with averages).

– Get T-Shaped people to work in your business. A broad set of experiences. Arms that reach wide into the world. People that can go left or right. people who are centered and balanced.

– It’s worth asking “why” 5 times if we want to get to the real reason of something.

– There are only 7 major plot lines to a story: Overcome the monster, Rags to riches, The quest, Voyage and return, Farce, Tragedy, Re-birth. Even our startup needs to choose one of these.


Amazing Aviation Facts

I recently did an Ignite talk on Amazing Aviation. People were blown away with some of the facts I presented. Many of them are very surprising. Here’s some of the doozies in a top 10 list!

  1. Only 5% of the worlds population have ever been on an airplane.
  2. Flight is not the safest form of travel. The bus is on all measures. The motorcycle is the most dangerous on all measures.
  3. The airline industry has currently made a net loss of $31 billion dollars since 1940.
  4. The average profit per seat on a 1 hour flight is $2.20.
  5. In 1940 to fly London – New York it cost 1 years wages. Today it costs the wage of working only Monday & Tuesday.
  6. The average age of commercial aircraft is 19 years. (How safe is a 19 year old car?)
  7. Tom Stuker is the worlds most frequent flyer. He has traveled over 10 million miles.
  8. There are over 14,000 commercial flights in the air at any one time.
  9. There are over 3 million people in the air on planes at any one time.
  10. The worlds first flying car arrives in 2012. Called the Terrafugia it costs $194,000

Statistics are fun, Love Stevie.


the 5% rule

5% of our customers wont pay on time

5% of our customers wont pay at all

5% of our employees wont deliver what they are paid to

5% of our employees will steal and or damage company property

5% of business partners will break contracts and even worse, not keep their word

5% the people we meet will be genuinly dishonest and painful to deal with

It’s the 5% rule. In fact quite often business discussion are too often focused on the 5% of times the business model will break down and we will get cheated in some way. The amount of strategy, board room and agency discussions I’ve had about the 5% of people who make business models and ideas imperfect are countless. The point for startups, no less any business, is to accept the fact that all models have gaps. And more often than not these gaps the doing of the 5% rule.

the 5% rule

The problems with trying to remove the 5% is that we build gates and protections which often stuff up the 95% which is working. We create unnecessary friction. What we are better off doing is thinking about the problem like water evaporation. It’s going to happening, no matter what we try. But we must remember that the very large majority of people are good.

My advice is simple. Know that it exists, and forge ahead anyway.


Quirky facts & contingency plans

Here’s a surprising, actually not so surprising business fact:

The IRS (USA tax department) tax manual has instructions for collecting taxes after a nuclear war!

Wow – that is some heavy contingency planning. Even a bit over the top….


Although I’m not a huge fan for planning, in startup land it’s still worth having a back up plan if things really go astray. Contingency plans for things like running low on cash, losing interest in your startup, or falling out of love with your business partner. Don’t obsess over it, just have some written ideas of how you’ll deal with it, if it happens.