Here’s what How I Met Your Mother taught me about startups
There’s this scene in How I Met Your Mother where Ted Mosby, the show’s protagonist starts an architecture firm — “Mosbius Designs” spends a ton of time messing around not really getting much done and when his friend, Robin confronts him about it this is what he has to say:
What if I don’t think of the books, Robin? There’s this famous architecture story about an architect who designed this library. It was perfect. But every year, the whole thing would sink a couple inches into the ground. Eventually, the building was condemned. He forgot to account for the weight of the books. This company it’s just me. What if I don’t think of the books?
I didn’t really think much of this quote at first, but when I started getting back to work I drew a few really weird connections between this quote and what I’ve experienced while building my companies so far.
Just hear me out. Just.. just.. okay?
The importance of a co-founder
Now, while this may not be a prerequisite for starting a company in general, a co-founder helps alleviate a lot of the burden and weight that comes with running a company. Not only that, no matter how smart you are and how much you think you’ve thought things through, a different perspective from someone who knows about the business as much as you do can add a lot to any conversation and can lead to avenues that you hadn’t even thought of before.
One of these avenues may remind you to account for the weight of the books.
If this isn’t a possibility, hire people who are way smarter than you. They’ll be able to figure things out and spot obvious errors in your judgement and information allowing you to take better decisions.
There’s always a chance your startup will collapse
No matter how much hard work, blood, sweat and tears you put into your work the nature and harsh reality of startups is that there’s always a chance that you’ll catastrophically fail. Just like the architect who designed the library, you can build something that you deem to be the legacy you leave behind, however all it takes is one mistake to have the whole tower collapse on you.
You can, however shift the odds in your favor by getting a majority of the things within your startup right.
Sometimes, you just have to take the plunge
If you just spend all your time accounting for every single possibility and ensuring that every measure is right, chances are you won’t end up getting anywhere. The only sensible thing to do in business is get into the trenches and getting your hands dirty because it’s impossible for anyone to take everything into account. You are more likely to hit your pot of gold building, iterating and refusing to give up rather than ensuring everything is perfect on your first run.