Catherine Gracey

Living Life, One Misadventure At A Time.

Schrodinger’s Start-up

on August 17, 2015

Not all start-up businesses are destined for success. Those that fail do so for a range of similar reasons that are infinitely variable in the details. It might be that the product is bad, it could be a great product that is just marketed to the wrong people, or perhaps it is marketed to the right people but there aren’t enough of them. There could be a lack of resources, either knowledge, funding or time, or simply the lack of an adequate plan to turn the vision into reality. Regardless of why the business fails, it is usually easy to find the problems in hindsight.

Estimates for the number that will succeed are as variable as definitions for success. One estimate that I came across recently is that 50% of start-ups will fail. In this instance failure was defined as the business folding and the owners walking away from it. Failure was not the opposite of success, but rather one of several alternative possibilities. Despite understanding this rationally, my optimistic side has taken it to mean that there is a 50% chance of an idea working.

For the past year I have been obsessively working on my own start-up idea, which is an iteration of previous versions of the idea that I abandoned. I know that there is a potential market, I don’t have a financial barrier to realising my goals, and I know how to close the skill gaps that could stop me from launching the business.

My idea ticks all of the boxes in theory. In practice, I don’t know which boxes will actually be ticked, and I can’t know until I launch and test my business in reality. Until I launch, I am working on Schrodinger’s start-up; it has the potential to be successful and it might be destined to fail. I might be securing my financial future for the rest of my life, but I might also be wasting hundreds of hours that could better be spent playing with my daughter and reading books on my couch.

The emotional response is to hope that continuing to work on it will make it stronger, more robust, and give it a better chance of succeeding. Unfortunately the truth is that delaying a launch in hopes that I can be better prepared just makes my start-up more likely to die of starvation than the complicated Geiger counter Schrodinger’s cat had to put up with. If I want my start-up to live then I have to make sure I don’t let it die. It’s as simple as that, but I won’t know if it works until I open the metaphorical box. Pandora and Schrodinger clearly have a lot to discuss.

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