What do chefs and entrepreneurs have in common? Both try to use great ingredients, and apply their energy and experience to create masterpieces.
I love to cook, and I love to watch cooking shows. Maybe it’s because I worked in my Dad’s restaurants as a young kid. Anyway, I have found that there are 3 basic types of chefs: 1. Scientist, 2. Magician, and 3. Artist.
To make a meal, the Scientist is the left-brained chef who meticulously measures and weighs ingredients, and follows religiously a 50-step recipe. The Magician has no recipe and, in fact, has no preconceived idea what kind of meal she’s going to cook. Instead, she goes to the market and sees what’s fresh and in season, then she goes back into the kitchen and conjures up a creation on the spot. The Artist is a combination of the first two. He has a general sense of what he wants to make, and how he wants to make it, and works within these guidelines to create his meal. He dosen’t work off an exact recipe, but instead relies on instinct and creativity to work within his themes.
Having observed, invested in, and worked with dozens of startups over the years, I theorize that Startup Founders also fall into 3 categories, each one similar to those in the cooking metaphor above.
For example, the Startup Scientist may have a super detailed business plan and 30 pages of financial projections including a dozen pages of assumptions (ok maybe I’m exaggerating, but you get the drift). Some years back, a good friend of mine sold his company for a tidy sum and used the 12 month noncompete period to develop a detailed business plan for a consumer-oriented startup. He raised $10 million in venture capital. His business plan was amazing, and every possible contingency and possibility was covered, this even before his company earned Dollar One. What happened? Within 2 years, he burned through all of his cash and folded the venture. Why? I think theScientist and his team were enamored by his plan, they hired too many executives too soon, and failed to be flexible and responsive to clients needs. I really think his “awesome” business plan worked against him, and he stuck with it even though he should have pivoted and iterated. The bottom line is that startups are not a “science,” and this approach works better for large companies than startups.