It’s useful for any start-up to have a wise owl (or two) looking out for them
But the owls need to understand that they need to be patient
ALLOW me to begin this week’s column with the retelling of a story I heard at Serguei Beloussov’s keynote address during this year’s Parallels Summit in Las Vegas.
For those wondering, Beloussov is the founder and current chief architect of virtualization technology company Parallels and is also a senior partner at Runa Capital, a venture fund that invests in start-ups doing work in cloud computing, the Internet, mobile apps, and virtualization.
His opening anecdote, which served to illustrate to his current role in Parallels, is as follows:
A group of mice were constantly under attack from predators wanting to eat them.
Tired of constantly living in fear, they decided to seek out the wise old owl living in the forest for advice.
Once they found the wise owl perched high up in the tree, they pleaded for his advice: “Oh wise old owl, we are tired of hiding from predators all the time. Can you give us a strategy to stop this?”
The wise old owl closed his eyes and thought while the mice patiently waited and after a period of time, he opened his eyes and told them: “You must become hedgehogs. As hedgehogs covered with spikes, no predator in this forest will want to eat you.”
The mice applauded this amazing solution; of course it made perfect sense! But then one mouse blinked, looked up and asked the wise old owl: “But wise one, how do we become hedgehogs?”
The wise old owl looked down from his treetop perch and shrugged: “I only deal with strategy. Don’t trouble me with details.”
To the start-up founders reading this, the ending must sound frustrating and irritating, no?
Now don’t get me wrong, every start-up needs a wise owl in their forest to consult with. After all, he (or she) is the one with the wings to fly above the treetops and let grounded founders in on where the other animals are headed.
But as we all know, it’s one thing to know that you have to get from Point A to Point B, it’s a whole other kettle of fish when it comes to deciding on which route to take. Or figuring out if there is even a route at all.
With my current company Digital News Asia, we have quite a few owls flying about, each wisely pointing out the best strategy during most interactions.
Many founders find it tough to get the attention of even one owl, so truth be told, it’s humbling to have more than one keeping a watchful eye on our progress.
It’s proof that they are not only emotionally engaged with the vision and mission of a small, scrappy start-up, but also feel compelled share helpful advice and insight based on their own experience with your product.
So what’s the message of this week’s column? To those wise owls out there, don’t worry and relax.
I know that when a particular start-up is interesting enough, it can be frustrating waiting for it to achieve that state you can already see in your head and beyond.
Trust me when I say the start-ups themselves are equally frustrated (if not more so) and impatient to achieve that same vision but things do take time, so please hold on the constant hooting.
To start-up founders and their staff, acknowledge the wisdom of these owls but always remember, it’s your efforts coupled with an unpredictable future that ultimately determines the path taken – be it closer or further away from the original strategy.
It’s not unlike buying a new car and going on a road trip. The car expert can suggest which model to buy, and travel experts the most scenic route to take but they won’t be in the car with you.
But you’re the one who’s going to have to drive through bumpy roads, sleep in dodgy highway motels and figure out along the way if your destination is the right one.
So remember to breathe and have faith that your own two hands will make that dream a reality … eventually.
This column originally appeared in the Metro Biz section of The Star and is reprinted here with its kind permission.
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