Big Red Car here. What a day, ya’ll! It is a bluebird day in the ATX and it’s Friday.
[And, we are going for BBQ today. Now you know when I write in brackets, well nobody but YOU and ME can read it. So now you know a little secret.]
Most startups and most small businesses are a combination of a jockey, a horse and a course — a race course. You are betting on one of them, sometimes two of them and if you are very, very luck all three of them. But startup businesses and small businesses are a risk any way you look at them.
The jockey is the founder, the leader, the owner, the management. He’s the guy sitting in the saddle.
The one guiding the horse. Guiding the horse around the course. Through the jumps and hedges like a steeplechase. Trying desperately to keep the horse headed down field along the course and without losing his seat.
Oh, the horse will run if only it has a bit of direction and a few oats. And some running room.
The horse is the business model, the engine, the business process.
The horse may be good or lame. A smallish pony may become a champion with the right training, oats and a damn good jockey. Takes some training and patience.
And some oats and some time.
Sometimes a unimposing pony turns out to have the heart of a champion. You never really know until you turn them loose — give them their head — and put just a touch of the spur to them. And then get out of the way.
The course is the marketplace, the industry, the economy.
Sometimes the course is muddy or uphill — both ways — and it doesn’t make any difference what the jockey and horse do. The course is going to eat them alive.
Other times, it is fair sailing and nobody can figure out how to ruin it. Even after trying hard to do just that. Not lately.
But there were times, in Texas in particular, when the streets were paved with gold. And times were good.
Combinations, permutations and luck
Think about potential combinations and permutations of these three individual elements of a startup or a small business.
1. Great jockey, adequate horse, adequate course — bumpy ride but maybe that ride ends up at the paywindow.
2. Mediocre jockey, good horse, great course — hmmmm?
You see where this is going, right?
Play around with the combinations and permutations and ask yourself what is the minimum viable combination to get to the paywindow? To flirt with greatness?
BTW, what the Hell is the difference between a combination and a permutation?
Venture capitalists are “punters”
What is a punter? A punter is a gambler particularly one who fancies the ponies. [It's also an Irish colloquialism for a chap who is willing to pay for a certain type of frisky lady's company on an evening or a stock market manipulator. Well, good thing that was in brackets, eh?]
So these punters, these venture capitalists are walking around the paddock sizing up jockeys, stink eyeing the horses and trying to assess the course — they are lining up their bets and making their decisions.
Who do they like today — the salty and seasoned jockey for whom this is not their first race? The serial entrepreneur.
Or do they like the new and clever young lad who not knowing better may just succeed because he does not recognize the signs of failure?
Or does he bet on the pedigree alone? The bright young gal with the Stanford or Harvard degree with a ton of assurance and a thimbleful of experience?
Oh, the venture capitalist pinches the horse and checks its teeth and slaps it hard to test its musculature. But most venture capitalists have never vaulted up on that saddle and put the spur to a nag, now have they? No. They are numbers guys primarily though they must become judges of jockeys, horses and courses. Keen judges hopefully.
So is this the right horse for this particular course?
“Horses for courses” — sometimes the right combination of the business model, the times and the economy captures lightning in a bottle and it may not even matter whose hand is holding the bottle.
So which bet is the best bet for the punters? What do you think and why?
But, hey, what the Hell do I know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car.
Be kind to yourself and be sweet to those you love and don’t let the sun come up on Saturday morning without having been extraordinarily kind to someone. Even yourself.