Scaling startups: shoot for the stars, but build your rocket first.

“We must obey the forces we wish to command”  (F.Bacon)

In 1620, Francis Bacon publishes his philosophical work
Novum Organum Scientiarum (‘new instrument of science’ ).

He details a new system of logic he believes to be superior
to the old ways – against the Aristotelian approach to science
through logic and deductive reasoning alone.

He argues a different approach is needed given the weakness
of the human mind and it’s natural biases
(he lists the Idols of the Mind in his work; today we’d call them cognitive biases ).

According to Bacon, inductive reasoning will allow humanity to uncover the essence of things.
His method relies on systematic observation of cases,
engagement of the senses, and artificial experimentation
to provide additional observance of a phenomenon and it’s causes.

Continue reading Scaling startups: shoot for the stars, but build your rocket first.

[Update] Successful scaling: What startups can learn from Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is a great opportunity to discuss the important topic of successful scaling.

  • it is the main reason startups fail
  • it is not talked about, and loosely defined

Successful scaling is about growing in size and complexity in a sustainable manner.

This means…

  • growing in size: larger or additional markets, larger customer base, additional customer segments, larger product/service portfolio… larger teams
  • growing in capacity: greater quantities and quality of product & services, increased customer care, …
  • growth in complexity: recruitment, procurement, distribution, partnerships, competition…
  • while maintaining a sustainable  business over time
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Breaking Bad is a great story of successful scaling, that more than one entrepreneur would find aspiring, in addition to the similarities it bears with the journey of building a startup:
  • a broke and sick high school science teacher (and a junkie high-school drop-out)
  • start with limited resources, but strong ambition and great business acumen
  • design a “killer product” Blue Crystal
  • pile millions from producing and selling large amounts of it
  • becomes a drug lord: successfully grows his “business” and navigates the increasingly hazardous environment of drug cartels, kills his competitors to create his drug empire.


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Let us take you through this journey, and illustrate 4 lessons to be learnt, understand who is the real unicorn, and more…


Ricardo Semler – SEMCO – Brazil

Brazilian CEO Ricardo Semler practices a radical form of corporate democracy, rethinking everything from board meetings to how workers report their vacation days (they don’t have to).
It’s a vision that rewards the wisdom of workers, promotes work-life balance — and leads to some deep insight on what work, and life, is really all about. Bonus question: What if schools were like this too?

Ricardo Semler shares very interesting questions and initiatives on talent recruitment, leadership assessment, and people engagement in companies, but also very thorough questions about the roles of passion and expertise in education.

The opportunity awaits in your blind spot

Allegory of Vanity

I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard that phrase: “think like a startup, act like a startup”… I guess you stopped counting too.

But this imperative calls for a deeper question, why is it so hard for existing businesses to do so?
And aren’t we underestimating the harshness of being a startup?

You need to start with the definition of a startup: A startup is an organization formed to search for a scalable and repeatable business model (according to Steve Blank, in “The four steps to Epiphany”)
Read it again. The startup is formed to seach…
The establish organisations isn’t formed to search – it’s designed to execute.

Startup entrepreneurs undergo tremendous pain and agony through the growth process between idea and product/market fit and revenue generation.
They will have to go through  the hard questioning, doubting, hole-poking and criticism inside an accelerator to make the venture even stronger.  I haven’t met any manager or executive in established businesses willing to go through such pain… because they don’t have time to do so, and they have no incentivized to do so.

So maybe for established businesses to think and act like startups, they need to institutionalise some time to doubt, to assess wrongful assumptions, challenge their limiting beliefs, articulate their intuitions, raise questions (see leads of belief change in one of my previous posts).

Continue reading The opportunity awaits in your blind spot

#Accountability – Looker

Analytics is something that’s easy to put off. When you’re actively building a company and trying to figure out your value proposition, collecting and splicing data can seem non-critical or premature. But then, all of a sudden, you hit a point where things get complex, you need to understand your customers much better, and you have lots of unusable data because you captured it the wrong way — or didn’t capture it at all.

via FirstRound