Surfing analogy for startups

Mahesh Mahesh Follow Oct 13, 2012 · 2 mins read
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There was an interesting talk a few days back in USC by Michael Sheha (his bio at the end of the post).

One of the analogies he gave was how startups were like surfing waves. The market is the wave and one needs to choose a big wave, a really big one. Otherwise there is no fun and no revenue. And the wave is something you can’t control. Its simply there and will come gushing. You cannot try to control it or tell it to move in another direction. You will have to ride along and ride skillfully.


Another analogy he gave was that a big company is like a warship or a tanker, they cannot change direction immediately, whereas you as a startup are like a PT boat - you are nimble, agile, fast and can change direction immediately (if you are not then you are doomed, pretty much).

One of the proverbs that really caught my attention:

The road to someday leads to the town of nowhere.

Here are other things that he talked about:

  • Customers really provide feedback when they PAY for something.
  • Keep costs low, really really low. You will never know when you will need the money. You should not repent that you could have saved earlier now that your funding got delayed.
  • Message matters - refine it a thousand times.

Here is his bio:

Michael Sheha is currently in-between startups. Previously he co-founded Networks In Motion (NIM) in 2000, which provided Location Based Services (LBS) to the world’s wireless carriers as a private labeled application and cloud-based solution, such as wireless personal navigation for mobile devices. NIM was started in 2000 and grew to over 300 employees internationally and to over $75m/yr in revenue. In 2009 NIM received the Southern California LAVA Award for the Best Exit in Internet & Technology when it was acquired by a public company. Prior to co-founding NIM, he worked at the California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s wireless communication systems and research section responsible for the design and development of digital and radio frequency communication systems, military GPS tracking systems, and the R&D in communication link and propagation studies. Michael graduated from University of Southern California (USC) with a MSEE in 2000, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) with a BSEE in 1995. He is currently living in Southern California, CA with his wife and four children.

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Written by Mahesh Follow
I think and read about Technology and the Human Mind. I am currently an ML engineer at Google, but the opinions here are my own and do not reflect that of my employer. Read More »