They famously start in garages with ragtag groups of people with different skills trying to make music together. They work late hours and drive the neighbors crazy–all in pursuit of a dream of fame and fortune. They usually have no money and often have day jobs just to pay the bills. Their parents wish they would do something more responsible. They are dreamers. They know the odds are not good but if they make it big, they will be wealthy beyond their imagination and crowds will fill arenas to hear them. I’m not talking about rock stars, I’m talking about startup founders.
I have always thought the parallels between startups and garage bands were interesting. Much more so than sports teams or other group dynamics, the garage band is an analogous situation. Like a band, there is no tryout involved, no permission or formal way to get involved–you just decide to form a startup on your own. There is no age requirement and members may have done it before or just learning for the first time.
I have seen founders start in obscurity and rise to worldwide prominence. I have seen talented founder groups fail to reach financial success for reasons totally outside of their control. I still remember a fund manager who years ago mentioned that you would have to be totally crazy to do a startup. He didn’t mean it disparagingly. He genuinely respected the special form of insanity that causes founders to work for nothing for hours that border on unhealthy.
Early on, many people just don’t get what they are doing or simply think their work is not good. The tough ones believe i themselves and press on anyway. The CEO is typically the lead singer. He or she is the outward face that the public tends to see, hear and know. However, the other band members, while less visible, are just as important. The CTO is like a lead guitar player. The COO is drummer setting the beat. Everyone has a role and needs to play it well if they are to be successful.
Personalities get involved. They break up. They burn out. Lots of talented groups end up making a living but not a very good one. Luck is often important.
If you are struggling through your own startup now, I hope this comparison is useful to you. Perhaps seeing your group as a rock stars in the making will give you the some encouragement to continue to pursue your dream and vision. As the Byrds sang . . .
“What you pay for your riches and fame
Was it all a strange game
You’re a little insane
The money that came and the public acclaim
Don’t forget what you are
You’re a rock’n’roll star”