Evolve or Perish

I was supposed to give a presentation and demo of Poca Bear at the StartX MentorLabs event this evening, but I didn’t have anything working. I had spent the last several weeks coding at a snail’s pace. My original goals were looking terribly unrealistic, and motivation was down around my ankles.

At 4am, I gave up and pondered my options. I certainly wasn’t going to miss the event, for there was gonna be free food. But I had promised an unveiling of Poca Bear, and I had nothing.

In my final hour of consciousness, I threw together a presentation. This was my first slide:

Poca Bear Slide 0

Then I took a bow and stepped off the stage.

Okay, okay, just kidding. After publicly admitting defeat, I presented Peer-to-Peer Postal, an old flame that I was ready to rekindle.

Peer-to-Peer Postal Slide 0

After the event, one of the program mentors came up to me and commended me for being brave enough to stand in front of the room and confess that I had made a huge mistake and needed to completely change directions.

One of the teams that I advised last session wasted 10 weeks because they couldn’t admit that their idea was terrible, he said. They disbanded at the end.

That’s sad. Maybe their idea sucked, but there was still a perfectly good team behind that idea. A team that’s bound together by an idea, but not by each other, is doomed to fail.

Had I decided to forgo the event, I certainly would not have been alone. Over half of the original teams had vanished, and this is only the midway point. The biggest reason why these very-early-stage startups fail is because they become fixated on a bum idea and can’t evolve.

Companies are organic creatures. When they are born, they are entering a foreign environment with a high infant mortality rate. Thus they must continuously adapt, beginning immediately.

Imagine if, in 2002, I had come up with the fantastic idea of creating a social network website where users could share photos and post messages on friends’ pages. Congratulations, I would have invented Friendster. Remember Friendster? Yeah, me neither.

friendster old logo

But imagine if, several years later, I took that social network website and added a News Feed where users could see a continuous stream of information regarding who logged in, added friends, updated their information, or posted commentary about their lunch. BAM! My passive book of faces just evolved into a friend-stalking tool. And only then would I have Facebook.

Maybe Peer-to-Peer Postal will evolve into a pizza delivery service. Maybe it’ll evolve into a drug trafficking operation. Who knows. It’s all good, as long as it doesn’t die.

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