To: Founders and Startups
Re: A Personal Letter to You
Hi there, folks,
I know I kind of crashed your party. No invitation, but here I am… so I wanted to formally introduce myself, share my feelings and thoughts about startups, founding new businesses, and starting new projects. And finally, offer you a welcome gift.
But firstly, I want to acknowledge the mess I’ve created… for you, your team, customers, and supporters. I threw a wrench into your business plan, product launch party, meetup planning, budget, fundraising efforts, come-to-the-office-whenever-you-want-culture, and all the other things you thought out so well. I know I fucked it up for you. Sorry.
Also, I owe you an apology for the loss of efficiency and productivity your team has experienced in the last months. I know I disrupted your “business as usual” and might have infected some of your team members, colleagues, friends, and family.
I can only imagine that this really hurts. Your company might shut down. Your ideas might never come to fruition. Your personal life might be in shambles because your loved ones got sick.
I am not going to pitch you the idea of “this is a great time to focus on the business essentials to survive” — you already thought of that. You are intelligent, nifty, and resourceful. You even came up with the term “going viral” a while ago! Thanks for the inspiration!.
In any case, you certainly have more experience launching and running businesses than I do, so I won’t have much practical input for you.
However, there’s one thing I want to bring up now, early on in our relationship: What will your businesses and startups look like from this point onwards? How will they look in a future where you, your products, teams, and their families coexist with me, my cousins, and my crew?!
Supply chains are not what they were a few months ago. Streaming providers like Netflix and YouTube reduced their bandwidth utilization to prevent internet-overload. Online and in-person dating changed a lot in a short time.
Global and local travel are FUCKED. It won’t be the same as before. With me around, can you imagine people happily sitting on a flight in economy-class where other passengers are always coughing and sneezing?!
Offices are closed right now. Open floor plans?!? *cough* …
Your co-workers are spending more, or all, of their time at home right now. Hopefully, they have a good internet connection and are using a decent video conferencing tool. Be aware of teleconferencing and online classroom hijacking though; even the FBI warns about it.
In the future, my cousins and friends will land on Earth more frequently. We like it here. It’s fertile ground for us, and we enjoy being the rebels to mess things up. We will probably infect specific regions, foods/crops/animals, and age groups. We’ll get more refined, mutate, and continue to wreak havoc.
How will your teams stay healthy and nourished in times where nothing will remain as it was? Change will happen not only on the mental levels (new organizational theories, collaboration methodologies, decision making structures) but also on the physical plane. Self-care and self-sufficiency of individuals might be worth a premium so they can continue to operate on the higher levels of Maslow’s pyramid, even during the time of global turmoil. Money alone won’t solve those problems. Neither will a new tech-gadget or higher engagement rates on your apps.
Will your office lunches disappear and company perks change to grow-your-own-vegetables and cook-at-home kits plus unlimited food orders? Maybe your teammates will desire remote work even more to enjoy a walk in nature in times of global lockdown. Flats with balconies to enjoy the sunshine or grow food will probably go at an even higher premium.
Maybe your projects, teams, and startups form more frequently around local communities to support the essential needs of connection, food, and shelter. Is “mobility” going to be as important as in the past? What does all this global commotion mean for your very centralized healthcare systems? Ripe for disruption?! I would think so…
How will you ensure internet and phone connectivity? Will mesh-networks do the job when centralized providers fail and can’t handle the bandwidth? I see you are already moving away from paper-money to avoid spreading me more. How about a new type of money altogether?
So many questions and ideas. I am sure you have thousands more.
And here’s the gift I brought to your party. You don’t have to accept it, but I thought I’d offer something at least: a little nudge to reconsider now what the future will look like for entrepreneurship, startups, and business.
My gift to you is the opportunity to hit your reset-button and do things truly differently. You can use your minds and bodies not only to fight me but also to create a new collective paradigm. You are super smart. You will create a vaccine against me and could try to go back to “how it was before”. But how about when the next pandemic arrives? And the next one after that? You’ve probably heard the quote “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
Maybe it is time to start doing things differently. I don’t know what this will look like for you… but the “what” and the “how” is not the gift I bring to you. My gift is the question of “when, if not now?” If you want to go back to business as usual, you can pretend I never showed up. But seriously… maybe you are all just outgrowing your old clothes and are ready for something newer, bigger, and more fitting for our future together. I invite you to listen to what wants to be born out of this tumultuous time. Be open to what wants to come through the cracks of the old reality.
Take time and turn around 180 degrees to do everything differently for a while. Be ridiculous. Walk backward for a day. Use your left instead of your right hand (or vice versa). Take the idea of your next Burning Man camp and turn it into a hyper-local project for where you are today. Turn to the stars, your garden, your books, or your family. Chat with your plants as if they were your new project managers. Listen to a rock for an hour as if it gave you your annual feedback. Whenever you have a new idea, pitch it to the sunset and listen for the answer. Take new perspectives by writing letters from imaginary future beings to your current self. Brainstorm and collaborate with people who are “waaaay out there” to try out something new. Do anything you can to re-imagine the world you created up to today. Forget all the dystopian stories (which I surely am part of right now) for just a moment and dream your wildest, utopian dreams. With rainbows, glitter, unicorns, and all the things.
Anyways. That’s it.
Let’s have a call soon, so we can meet on neutral ground and you won’t be scared to get infected. Happy to discuss more then.
All the best. You know where to find me.