Why running a start-up business is like playing Left 4 Dead.

So. We have established that this article might not be that interesting to you unless you have clocked more than 200 hours of Steam game play and have a vitamin D deficiency. However, at Static we can’t help but compare our hectic lives with the lives of the survivors in the post apocalyptic world of Left 4 Dead.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the game it basically involves a team of survivors banding together with the common goal of reaching a safe zone. Now, with the messy world of business start-ups we all want to achieve certain goals but there are countless obstacles in our way much like the swarm of blood-crazed zombies in L4D. Fair enough, most obstacles in the startup world don’t threaten us with mutilation or death but there are some dangerous threats out there. Also just to make it clear. We do not condone the use of armed retaliation towards other businesses (just in case).

This list outlines some of the nastier mutant threats to your business in more detail:

The Jockey

In L4D this little bastard creeps up on you and jumps onto your shoulders to steer you away from safety. In the startup world this guy represents the loss of focus that start-ups sometimes face when trying to reach a goal. It can be real easy to start playing with new products and features before you have succeeded with your core product. Sometimes you just need to trudge down the safest road before skipping down wild and wonderful paths.

One of my biggest flaws in the past was that I would find myself running before I could properly walk. Working on a new project would get me extremely excited and I didn’t have the patience to carefully plan, execute and evaluate my actions. Having a co-founder with a logical and realistic approach is always handy here.

The Tank

This one kinda explains itself. When you are a small little team working 14 hour days on the next big thing. The last thing you want is Google or Microsoft launching a similar product and SMASHING your hopes and aspirations to hell. Can’t really compete can you? Well history has proved this to be wrong in some cases and I can’t think of a better example than Instagram. These guys launched a photo editing app that Facebook soon tried to copy. With all of Facebook’s resources they couldn’t make a dent in the market because it wasn’t what made Facebook “Facebook”. It was only ever a side product for them whilst Instagram concentrated purely on delivering a top notch photo application. Tanks are overrated. Don’t try to make a new Facebook though. Dont…

The Smoker.

Arguably one of the most annoying monsters on L4D. This guy lurks in the shadows and when you are least expecting it drags you away from safety. What is more peculiar is that he does this with his HUGE tongue and starts to suffocate you (much like a boa constrictor).

The Smoker represents the nitty-gritty world of tax, law and intellectual property. When you are a small company it can be so easy to forget about the official stuff but you have to do it. Even if you are taking a few hundred pounds a week in revenue or are living off investment you have to account for everything or the tax man WILL slay you. We are serious guys. Happened to a lovely tech start-up down the road. When it comes to IP it goes without saying that you have to protect your ideas somehow or another. This doesn’t mean that you should turn into a goon who runs around telling everyone he has a great idea but refuses to share it with anyone (We know plenty of those). Ideas are incredibly hard to protect and for tech start-ups it can be a waste of time. However there are some things that you can get easily such as domain names and copyrights. Without all of these you could find yourself in a nasty bidding war.

To conclude I want to say that the start-up world is one big game. By this I don’t mean that you should take it lightly. I just mean that you should always be ready to adapt to new changes, scrap plans and learn from your mistakes. If you are running down a dark corridor alone on L4D then you are most likely going to get your head torn off but you need to learn this lesson the hard way. It is exactly the same in the start-up world and I still find myself making mistakes all the time.

I have failed with 3 ventures in the past but every time it happens I find that I get to a later stage than the last one. It’s a very positive trajectory and I love working with the guys at Static.

Thanks for reading!

Tom

@thomasdunnuk