Rules of Startup (Club)

After reflecting on my startup journey so far I was reminded about the rules of Fight Club (the movie) that we regularly use in jokes and thought they also map appropriately to my fellow founders of startups.

Here is my interpretation along with the originals:

1st Rule of Fight Club: You do not talk about FIGHT CLUB.

1st Rule of Startup: You have to talk about your STARTUP.

To be successful initially you have to communicate to others effectively what your startup is all about. This means that you have to think about, develop, refine, and improve your pitch continually. Furthermore you have to be prepared and ready to talk about fight club your startup at any time and any place. Forget about your comfort zone. I learned how unprepared I was the hard way after unexpectedly being asked to pitch in front of 300+ people. Also very important is that, like the secret of fight club, your pitch needs to have a good story, complete with element of passion, intrigue, and amazement – learned that one from John Persico.

2nd Rule of Fight Club: You DO NOT talk about FIGHT CLUB.

2nd Rule of Startup: You DO always and only talk about your STARTUP

This is more of an eventuality then a rule, but you will find yourself only talking about your startup to everyone, all the time. This is initially a good thing, after all your role as a founder is to grow the brand awareness, and get people talking about your startup. However be aware that you will end up thinking about your startup all day and all evening and you won’t be able to sleep as you will still be buzzing with feature idea X, customer lead Y or business development action Z. Sometimes you will even find yourself composing emails in your head long after you’ve retired for the night, I call this condition #StartupInsomnia. It will get to the point that you will have to keep reminding yourself NOT TO talk about fight club your startup to your friends because THEY will get sick of it :)

3rd Rule of Fight Club: If someone says “stop” or goes limp, taps out the fight is over.

3rd Rule of Startup: If someone says “stop”, stop, consider, learn, pivot or discard and FIGHT ON.

There are two aspects of this rule. If someone tells you to stop or gives you critique X, your instinct will probably always be to reject and disqualify their view in your head, however instead, you should always take a bit of time to consider their feedback. In some cases they may have given you valuable advice. If you don’t realize what they were trying to say, and apply a course of action to mitigate the cause for such a response, you will end up wasting much of your time and money pursuing a lost cause. Just ask around, there are many who have trod this path. In any case never give up completely, learning from and pivoting based on early feedback is core to the startup journey.

The second aspect to this rule is that rarely are people interested and invested in your startup and personal success like you yourself are and may unintentionally or on purpose deter you from your vision. You have to grow a thick skin as your journey will be laced with rejections, varying and conflicting feedback, and the like. So if someone tells you to stop, or you’ll never make it, or we’re not interested in your product X or your service Y, Suck it up, pivot or discard, and FIGHT ON staying true to your vision. Unlike fight club, with startup club, if you want to win, it fight ain’t over till the fat lady sings.

4th Rule of Fight Club: Only two guys to a fight.

4th Rule of Startup: At LEAST two guys in a STARTUP

You must have at least two guys in your startup to make it. <Citation Needed> Why? Because Google started with two guys and look at them… Yes but more importantly because VCs look for and prefer teams AND because you need help, advice and support. If you don’t think you do, you haven’t yet learned the core lesson that you will need to succeed and scale. The startup life can be isolating and without good support and advice to validate and bounce your ideas, it is likely you will begin to increasingly second guess, doubt and eventually make bad decisions.

5th Rule of Fight Club: One fight at a time.

5th Rule of Startup: One startup, idea or direction at a time.

When the creative juices kick in you will likely start seeing a lot of opportunities and possibilities, ideas for features and business development. It is important to keep yourself focused and free from some of these distractions and set clear goals and and milestones to achieve. This will prevent you from being drawn in diverging directions and your workload cluttered and ultimately inefficient. Like the good people of fight club, one fight at a time will get you there.

6th Rule of Fight Club: No shirts, no shoes.

6th Rule of Startup: No shirts, no shoes, unless you make it.

Someone said that entrepreneurs earn less on average then career employees <Citation Needed>, that is of course unless they make it. Buttom line is slim any way you look at it, founding a startup will require significant personal and financial commitment that is likely to leave you shirtless and shoeless, bruised and beaten. Even if you succeed in getting funding you will likely take a significantly lower wage and work crazy hours. The odds really are against you, but if you are feeling discouraged or in doubt refer to 3rd Rule of Startup second paragraph above.

7th Rule of Fight Club: Fights will go on as long as they have to.

7th Rule of Startup: Startups will…?

I’m going to leave this one as an interaction piece. How does this rule map to your startup journey, leave a comment bellow.

8th Rule of Fight Club: If this is your first night at FIGHT CLUB, you HAVE to fight.

8th Rule of Startup: If this is your first go at a STARTUP, you to have fight HARDER.

Someone said always startup with your second best idea first. I personally don’t subscribe to this idea, and I don’t think Sergey Brin and Larry Page did either (I love those guys) <Citation Needed>. However the reality is that having never done this before, you will HAVE to fight harder, and believe in your vision for longer.  At the end of the day the odds ARE stacked against you and a lot of it is luck so don’t take it too personally but consider that there are over 7 billion people in the world seeking a worthy cause or hoping for a better life. You my friend are one of the 300 million that is actually trying to make it happen – hmm that sounded better when I thought it was in the thousands. Ok, so you will probably fail, but either way you HAVE to fight.

So to all my fellow dreamers fighters out there I solute you with the words of the late Steve Jobs Rob Siltanen and Ken Segall:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. – Apple Inc”

Now why are you still reading this? Go change the world…

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