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America: The Ultimate Startup

Posted on May 28, 2007

American FlagDuring this Memorial Day weekend I found myself thinking about our troops who have died in battle to protect our way of life over the life of this country. Before I go on with this post I’d like to thank all deceased and living troops for their service to the United States of America. I often think we don’t thank them enough.

That said, my thoughts drifted to the Revolutionary War - the first war for American soldiers. I am sure I ended up thinking of the Revolution because I happen to be reading David McCullough’s 1776 right now. That novel, while enriching my historical knowledge of the Revolution, has also shown me that the founding of this country was much like the founding and building of a company making America the ultimate startup.

Here are some key characteristics of both the Founding Fathers and citizens of America and the founders and employees of a startup:

Passion is very important: You must have a strong belief in what you do in order to make your goals a reality. Washington had no real experience leading an Army which technically put him at a disadvantage when fighting the world’s most elite force, the British Army. However, Washington and his troops had passion and time and time again even though they should have lost they won because they wanted it more.

Startups always have this same passion. It is a driving force within the company that keeps people going and sacrificing when needed to get things accomplished.  They want to change the world and will fight when needed to make sure they get their product out there.

Knowing your limitations is crucial: History shows that Washington knew his limitations as was not afraid to defer to others for help. He also was smart enough to surround himself with great people that he could count on to do the right thing and to advise him when needed.

This same type of behavior is shown in most of the great startup CEOs. They hire great people around them that they can trust.  Most importantly they aren’t afraid to admit when they don’t know the exact path they should take and to consult with their fellow company builders to find the best route.

Remaining calm under pressure is critical: Washington and his men were always under tremendous pressure. They were outgunned and outmanned at every turn and yet they stayed calm, formulated their plans and pulled off one of the biggest upsets in history.

Startups do this every day. They are always up against bigger companies who have resources they don’t but yet they persevere and change the world just as Washington and his army did.

Adaptability and Innovation are essential: Things change (the only constant is change, right?) and being able to adapt is something that separates the winners from the losers. In the case of the Revolutionary War the U.S. Troops and their leaders were able to adapt to different battlefields, different situations and different styles of warfare quicker than the British. They were also innovating on war strategy and attacking in ways the British never would have imagined.

Startups are typically innovative by definition but they are also adaptive. Most if not all start-up founders and employees, at least early on, are jacks of all trades and can adapt on a dime to fulfill a need in the company.  This leaves them more nimble than the large companies they are up against and puts them at an advantage.

While there are many more similarities between America and startups I’ll leave them for another post. Perhaps you’ll see them next Memorial Day. I hope all of you American readers out there had a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend and I hope this post will get you excited to head back to work tomorrow and make things happen.  After all, this country is one big startup so get out there and follow in your forefathers footsteps.

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2 Comments so far
  1. Linker Barn: May 29 May 29, 2007 10:54 am

    […] America: the ultimate start-up. […]

  2. […] out exactly why I say that. The parallels should be easy to draw based on the paragraph above (here’s another post on America being the ultimate start-up that I put together just in case you want […]