What's a Startup Like? Stick a Fork in Your Blender

To understand this post, you need a little story:

I broke a fork last week.

It was 6:00am. I was craving a mixed-berry smoothie for breakfast. To make it healthier, I added a cup of chopped swiss chard. Love me some vitamins. The fruit blended well, but the swiss chard wasn't budging. It needed a little push.

I pulled out a fork, opened the top cap on the blender, and poked at the chard (yes, the blender was on). I didn't think I pushed it down that far. I did.

The fork was mangled in the blades. I pull it out and assessed the damage. One of the fork prongs was heavily damaged. The tip was nearly sliced off. After discarding the metal-filled smoothie, I tried to bend the fork back to life.

I wasn't successful. The fork landed in the trash seconds later.

What does this failed breakfast have to do with startups?

A couple of things. Let's walk through the whole process, step-by-step.

Get excited about an idea

It all starts with an idea. You get psyched about it - you crave it. You get up earlier to work on it. For me, it was a mixed-smoothie, but it could very easily be your newest startup idea.

Add ingredients that do their job

When you get an idea in your head and it can't go away, you're on to something, Now, you go build a team of friends, family, business partners - whoever. People to help you get the job done. In my case, it was berries, protein powder, water, and chard.

Blend to make something

The first time you turn on the switch to see your idea come to life, it's exciting. But it's just version one, so it might not be the best it could be. Example: My chard wasn't blending quite right.

Not working? Bring in the fork

I brought in the fork - a new idea to make my smoothie better. In startups, this would be something like venture capital, a new team member, duct tape, or a web app to make your life easier.

Fork gets mangled and altered

The fork ruins the idea. It gets damaged. You go into panic mode because what you originally had isn't the same anymore. You don't know if it's going to work. (ie. my smoothie now has metal bits floating in it).

You try to fix it

Since you've got a problem - maybe you're headed in the wrong direction, a key partner left, or you're running low on cash - you try to bend the fork back into place. You try everything: bending with your hand, against the counter, and with other heavy objects. Nothing is working.

You realize the fork (and the smoothie) will never be the same

What started out as a brilliant idea is no more. The fork is mangled, and breakfast (and your business) are ruined.

Discard the fork and start over

It's OK that your ideas fail. That's why you get back up and make another smoothie - with new ingredients and a better blender.

Startups aren't always going to succeed. And they're the most likely to go through this roller coaster of an idea cycle. Moral of the story? It's ok if you can't bend your fork back to normal. And never be afraid to throw it all out and start over.

Does this metaphor make sense to you? Let me know in the comments and let's get a discussion going.