Riding singletrack has a knack for mirroring life as an entrepreneur running a startup. Slashing through the woods on a narrow and rocky dirt trail miles from home, miles from shelter and drinking water, and miles from civilization; it is there when you begin to understand the lonely and rugged, but euphoric soul of mountain biking and, likewise entrepreneurship.
I'm out in the wild typically by myself--just me and my bike (ie., my founding team), and some tools (ie., funding) to fix my problems should something break, or should I get a flat tire. Keep in mind this is a pretty sweet bike--fully suspended, loaded with killer components and maintained like a Ferrari, so things don't typically break, but it is comforting to know that nothing short of a serious injury can derail the adventure.
Being headquartered in Utah has big advantages for my startup, and others, as the world is learning, but it also features some of the world's best outdoor adventure access. From the world's best mountain biking and skiing to gold medal fly-fishing and championship golf, Utah is an outdoor enthusiast's' paradise. Those seeking adventure in groups or solo have for decades satisfied their urges in Utah--and now, thankfully, they can satisfy their entrepreneurial urges here as well. And I want some of these thrill seekers on my team. Why?
Here are the 12 things I think adventure seekers bring to the startup party:
1. Confidence: one can't make a banked turn at high speed--when you absolutely have to make that turn--without confidence.
2. Planning: whether mountain biking solo, or mountaineering with a group, planning is key to completing a successful mission. You have to know the route. No excuses.
3. Strategy: strategy resulted in Sherpas hanging ropes on the Lhotse Face to speed up climbing times on the world's tallest mountain's biggest bottleneck.
4. Toughness: toughness comes from experience--from having your bike break down deep in the woods, or having your path to the summit blocked by the unforeseen. Getting home involves staying strong and working through the problem rather than panicking.
5. Loyalty: adventure seekers are used to working in teams and often find themselves in life-threatening situations, which builds instant loyalty. It is a trait adventure seekers have adapted as a course of what they do.
6. Resilience: resilience and toughness are not the same thing. Toughness will help you keep it together during a storm at sea. Resilience will help you endure that storm in style.
7. Creativity: figuring our problems in nature often involves a bit of McGyver-like creativity. Those skills come in handy at startups too.
8. Fun: adventures are fun--it is the root reason for going on one. Those who seek adventure also seek fun, and yes my team likes to have fun. I wouldn't hire a stick in the mud.
9. Commitment: there are times when you are forced to commit--whether to a strict line on your skis, or to airing it out on your bike. Committing to a company road map is relatively safe in comparison.
10. Talent: most adventure seekers have some athletic talent. They are good at what they do, regardless of discipline. Those are the types of well-rounded talent that make a startup sing.
11. Vision: in order to pull off an adventure one has to have vision from the beginning of what exactly that adventure is and what qualifies as success. Running a startup is no different.
12. Fun: I can't say it enough. . .
In a 2013 article penned by Inc.'s Burt Helm, Boulder, Colo., is hailed as, 'America's Startup Capital," in large part because of the outdoor lifestyle Boulder affords being part of the Rocky Mountain foothills. In the story, Helm quotes Alex Bogusky, founder of advertising behemoth Crispin Porter Bogusky:
"Thrill seekers are drawn to this place," he says. "Once you get out here, you want the ultimate thrill in business, too, and that's startups."
There you have it. I still think Silicon Valley is America's technology mecca, but it is lacking in its easy access to outdoor adventure; a key component I think in attracting some of the world's best talent, which is instead moving to places like Colorado and Utah to startup. Hmmm. Drive five hours in heavy traffic to ski Sierra cement, or drive 30-minutes up Cottonwood Canyon to ski deep and fluffy Utah powder snow? Tough choice for those extremely entrepreneurial and employable adventure seeker-types.