As an investor, founder, CEO and business book author, I write about startups, design, how to build a good business, and I like to muse about culture in any form.

Startups are the Olympics of Business

Hannah Kearney, Gold medalist, Vancouver 2010. Photo: U.S. Ski Team - Tom Kelly

Last night I watched the Women’s Mogul event in Vancouver   Studying each of the steely-eyed competitors, totally focused on the course, I thought about the extreme level of commitment, vision, super-human work and sheer irrational belief it took each of them to get there.  Despite the crushingly terrible odds, each of those 26 athletes approached the imminent Mogul run with total determination to bring home the Gold.

These elite athletes live a life that, truly,  only their fellow competitors can understand.

That’s the closest analogy I’ve found to what it’s like to be on the founding team of a startup.  Having worked in other business situations–even highly demanding ones, even large public company ones–has nothing on building a startup.  It’s such an extreme version of business.   Fighting to be the “one,” and doing it mainly through sheer force of will, against ridiculous obstacles, is like nothing else.

Except maybe training for years in isolation for the .000000565 in 1 chance to become an Olympic competitor.*

But I’ll stick with startups.  The odds are better.

*I’ve never had the remotest hope of being an Olympic athlete.  Except maybe if the games included a “Backwards Speed Walking” event.   I am oddly good at that, for reasons I can’t understand.

4 Responses to “Startups are the Olympics of Business”

  1. Margaret McKenna

    very interesting and helpful analogy for those of us who could do neither the Olympics or a startup to understand what it’s like!

    love the ‘heading’ of your blog, wonderful visual

    • julespieri

      Thanks for weighing in Margaret. I think I wrote this post to try and paint a picture for the long-suffering friends and family of startup founders. The life is just so extreme and hard to understand. But I figure everyone understands that an Olympic athlete is also living a very extreme life.

      Glad you like the header of my blog. It was actually created by RumSumSum…they were a Grommet. Personalized photo art. They make wonderful images as gifts, like a birthday, wedding, graduation. You can have it say anything you want, and provide images (or not–just let them do it) to come up with a unique piece of art. Here is the link:–Personalized-Photo-Art

  2. Carol Fishman Cohen

    Hi Jules, Thanks so much for posting this. Having a similar range of career experiences before working on our start-up, I can relate directly. I got a boost from your recognition of the extremes involved, both personal and professional. Carol


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