I am writing these words from the car on my way to the hotel. I just landed in Prague for the weekend and as we walked through the airport, made it to the plane, took off, and landed, all I could think about is how similar travel is to entrepreneurship.
Here is how:
Timing isn't only important, it's everything.
During the pandemic, airlines expect you to come four hours before takeoff. Pre-Covid, the instructions were to arrive three hours before, but who really followed those guidelines?
Well, it turns out that when there is a global pandemic, you should really follow instructions.
I almost missed the flight because I came to the airport only two hours before the flight.
Building a startup is similar. You can have the best idea, and even execute to perfection, but if the market isn't ready for your product or, alternately, if the market is already over saturated, then maybe it's time to pivot or go home.
I can tell you that I personally had two startups that were very promising. Both were too early. Both failed.
The number of moving parts is overwhelming.
I was thinking about why it is that airports make me anxious. Then it occurred to me: 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 is true for startups. A successful entrepreneur has such a long and winding journey that the number of things that can go wrong is pretty endless.
That's one of the many reasons that such a vast majority of startups fail.
One wrong turn and it's game over.
If you're traveling and accidentally join the wrong line, you can easily stand there for hours only to discover that you've been on the wrong the whole time.
With startups, one wrong investor, one lazy team member who doesn't do sufficient research, one wrong choice, and the whole company can burn and crash.
You can plan all you want, but if you don't get on the plane, it's all worthless.
This is actually something I heard from my rabbi in reference to holidays. You can plan and plan for the holiday, like you can plan and plan for a trip, but if you don't get on the plane, well, all your preparation was pointless.
When building a startup, you can do all the research you want, make 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'll never launch and all your preparation is for nothing.
Knowing the right people can definitely help.
Let's be honest. We all know that person who has a hookup at the airport and bypasses all the lines or gets an upgrade to business class.
It's kind of the unspoken reality of startups. You need to know people, preferably people in Silicon Valley. Don't get me wrong. Companies can of course succeed outside of the Bay Area, but it sure helps to be part of the cool kids club.
Beware of a short runway.
This last point, which I actually like the best of all the above points, was something my friend told me. We came here to Prague with him and as I was writing this article, Mayer said to me that runway is key.
Many startups raise capital and spend it like it's nobody's business. Too many entrepreneurs wake up when they're pretty much out of runway.
A plane needs a long runway to take off. A startup needs enough runway to take off as well.
Like international travel, startups should keep your eye on the destination and enjoy the journey.