Movies make fly fishing so romantic. Back Forth Back Forth Whoosh…the fly lands and the water erupts with a silver flecked trout taking the fly. It’s kind of like movies about starting a business, especially technology businesses. Code Test Code Test Launch…the internet erupts with the clicks of Venture Capitalists showering money on the dueling co-founders. Everyone gets rich…yeah, right!
Yet, in real life, these two enterprises are actually very, very similar. If you’ve never fly fished, here’s a little picture of what it is really like…
Gear up… Fishing License, water proof boots and waders, fly rod (2 or 3 piece?), fly line & reel, flies (actually you need about 40 or so which include flies, nymphs and more) and more little stuff. Then, tie your flies and nymphs on the line – kind of like pushing a garden hose through a hole the size of a quarter, go to the water’s edge and cast. Now it get’s harder; you have to release line as you weave your rod back and forth to pull line out. Then, because you didn’t look behind you, you’ve now gotten your fly and line stuck in a branch. Get your line untied or cut it and start all over.
I think you get the picture. You’re an hour in, you haven’t even landed your first fly on the river and you’ve gone through four flies, cut 40 feet of line off, slashed your finger and learned how to tie a knot with invisible thread. Congratulations! Now comes the hard part…catching a fish. You have to Think Like a Fish to figure out where they eat, what it looks like from under water, what direction to cast, what the current will do and how the wind will effect the entire presentation. Gheesh. That’s no easy task and you still don’t have the first nibble!
Now think about entrepreneurship. You get to come up with an idea, evaluate the market, consider revenue streams, build a team, build a platform, test the platform, build a pitch deck, get validation, test the prototype, test the beta (both A and B), hire staff, find investors, manage budgets, find customers, confirm your mvp, pivot, try a new mvp, code some more, test some more, run your credit cards to the max, buy hardware, buy software, go offshore with staff, get LOIs from prospective customers, redo the business plan, network, source your friends and LinkedIn for potential investor contacts, present your pitch, modify your pitch, provide great service to the first 100 users, get cloud storage, get cloud based servers so you don’t crash, evaluate your prototype results and modify the marketing plan, hire a salesperson, etc. And you still don’t have your first investor!
Here’s the bottom line – Focus. If you want to go fly fishing, you need incredible focus. You need to go to the right place, at the right time of day, do 100 little things right and still not catch a fish. You have to be OK with that ‘cause you’ll be back for more.
A startup is the same way. You have to focus on the goal, on the pain the customer or user is actually experiencing. You do twenty things right and one thing wrong and the whole process comes crashing down. You can plan, and plan and plan but still an element of poor execution that brings you back to square one. You won’t have landed one investor and you’ll be running out of money. You persevere.
That’s the key. Focus. When I go fly fishing I focus on what the fish are eating right then, where they would be hanging out for food and how deep they are. Get my gear set up and FOCUS on dropping my fly in that spot. I can’t tell you how many times I was exactly right and it surprised the shit out of me and I didn’t land the fish. The fly hit exactly where I wanted it and a fish hit it the second it touched the water and I wasn’t even ready to hook it! Shame on me…start over. Clear Mind…Focus…Cast.
How will you land your investors? How will you land your users? How will you land your advertisers? Focus…they will all respect it. Just like that fish you didn’t hook the first time, you can drop that fly again in that same spot and next time…you’ll be ready to land the big one.
A storyteller by nature, a revenue repairman by trade and a founder by dumb luck.