I am writing these words from the car on my way to the hotel. I just landed in Prague for a weekend and as we walked through the airport, reached the plane, took off and landed, all I could think about was how similar traveling is to entrepreneurship.
Timing isn’t just important, it’s everything.
During the pandemic, airlines expect you to be there four hours before departure. Pre-Covid, the instructions were supposed to arrive three hours earlier, but who really followed those guidelines?
Well, it turns out that when there’s a global pandemic, you really need to follow the instructions.
I almost missed the flight as I was at the airport only two hours before the flight.
Building a startup is similar. You can have the best idea and even execute it to perfection, but if the market isn’t ready for your product or alternately, if the market is already oversaturated then maybe it’s time to turn around or go home.
I can tell you that I personally had two startups that showed great promise. Both were too early. Both failed.
The number of moving parts is overwhelming.
I thought to myself why is it that airports make me anxious. Then it occurred to me that the reason is that there are so many moving parts.
So many documents, especially during Covid, and it’s so easy for something to go wrong.
The same goes for start-ups. A successful entrepreneur has such a long and windy journey that the amount of things that can go wrong is pretty endless.
That’s one of the many reasons why such a vast majority of startups fail.
One wrong turn and it’s game over.
If you’re traveling and accidentally get into the wrong row, it’s easy to stand there for hours only to find you’ve been sitting in the wrong direction all along.
With startups, one wrong investor, one lazy team member who doesn’t do enough research, one wrong choice, and the whole company can burn up and crash.
You can plan whatever you want, but if you don’t get on the plane, it’s all worthless.
This is actually something I’ve heard from my rabbi regarding vacations. You can plan and plan the vacation like you can plan and plan a trip, but if you don’t get on the plane, well, all your preparation was futile.
When building a startup you can do all the research you want, create the best investor deck possible and even design your product to perfection, but if you don’t launch because you want everything to be perfect then you will never launch and all your preparation has been for nothing.
Knowing the right people can certainly help.
Let’s be honest. We all know that person who has a connection at the airport and bypasses all lines or gets an upgrade to business class.
It’s kind of the unspoken reality of startups. You have to know people, preferably preppie in Silicon Valley. Do not get me wrong. Businesses can also succeed outside the Bay Area, of course, but it certainly helps to be a part of the cool kid’s club.
Beware of short runways.
This last point, which I actually like the best of all the above points, was something my friend told me. We came to Prague with him and as I was writing this article Mayer told me the runway is the key.
Many startups raise capital and spend it as if it were none of their business. Too many entrepreneurs wake up when they are virtually off the runway.
An airplane needs a long runway to take off. A startup also needs enough runway to take off.
Like international travel, startups need to keep an eye on the destination and enjoy the journey.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not Inc.com’s.
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