Inc.com’s Ilan Mochari wrote “What Happens When Entrepreneurs Fall in Love With Their Creations”. The article went in a different way than I thought. In light of the Golden Globe-nominate Her starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson (voice) where Phoenix’s character, Theodore Twombly, falls in love with a computer system, Mochari writes about the propensity for entrepreneurs to fall in love with their creations. Though, the ending was more of a cautionary note for any one of us, in general, about the attachment we have these days to technologies.
Mochari opened the article talking about the “edifice complex,” a spin on the Oedipus complex when sons fall in love with their mothers. The edifice complex is where a person falls in love with a building, or at least, the desire to the design one.
Mochari talks about how Jim Koch’s, founder of Boston Beer Co., love for his business enabled him to pursue building a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility despite providing minimal value, instead, adding substantial costs in capital and operating costs. (He later realized his folly and moved to build a smaller facility, but only after heavy investment in time and capital.)
Lessons and Take-Aways
The conclusion of the article was a little more “generic”, and could serve entrepreneurs/ readers with a more cautionary tale in touching on Koch’s dilemma. That is, there are many perils when it comes to loving our creations as entrepreneurs including some thoughts below:
Failure to see the real opportunities. I’ve long described entrepreneurial endeavors analogous to raising a kid (for better or worse). As such, we sometimes believe our creations are perfect as they are, and no, he never bit Little Billy despite jaw impressions to the contrary.
When you’ve spent hours and weeks and months and years on your product, you may be blinded to see that there is something eerily wrong underneath the covers. As such, it’s important that even though you may test features for success/ failure, getting feedback early and often from your customers and prospects lends critical perspective to ensure your product hits the spot.
Blinded to the failures. Somewhere in your journey of the startup roller coaster, you may stumble and fall. Periodically, the team should evaluate the direction of the company, and whether or not the current path will lead to the Land where you want to be. However, sometimes love of your startup may blind you thinking your startup will succeed, when in fact, it won’t. Either a pivot is needed, or shutting down is the more appropriate direction so you can move onto another project. Of course, this can be tricky and takes real consideration whether or not you may just be in the “trough”.
Stagnation for improvement. This can be confused with the above, but I want this to be clear: what I mean here is the debt (not financial, but technical or otherwise) of the startup. If you’ve been working on a project for years (oftentimes, not that long), you may believe your product is so perfect that it can’t actually be improved anymore. Or maybe that it’s in a great place where it doesn’t need to be improved.
We, as a people, should strive to learn to better ourselves and the people around us. We’ve always got room to improve. As such, our creations oftentimes have room for improvement as well.
I like the notion of the idea of Six Sigma – the notion of process improvement to reduce variability. With Six Sigma, you’re constantly looking to improve. When you reduce variation to some level, then you crank the screws tighter and the cycle for improvement continues.
Over-valuing your startup. Tune into ABC on Friday evenings, and you can catch a glimpse of over-valuation galore on Shark Tank. You’ll see Mr. Wonderful, Mark Cuban, and the other sharks pointing out hideously high valuations of entrepreneurs; thus, putting in a massive hurdle where the entrepreneurs never get investment.
I like capitalism and the notion of free markets where the market pays what the market bears. I haven’t had quite the opportunity to really sell a company (yet), but the idea here is that entrepreneurs’ biased views and love for their startups sometimes fail to recognize the notion that what they believe the worth of their company is can be very different from what it’s worth to the free market. This may lead to a failure to do a deal in a complete liquidity event or investment to get the business blasting off the ground.
Wrapping It Up!
Hey, passion for our startups is important in entrepreneurship. It can be a great ingredient in how we continue to pursue our dreams. Passion and love gives us that genuine spirit that enables us to invigorate and motivate prospects into investing in us or buying our products. However, love for our products should be tempered with realism.
Have you seen the movie Her? What are your thoughts on our growing dependence on technology? What are some other ramifications of falling for our startups as entrepreneurs?