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Startup Energy Theory

[TL;DR: Rockets and energy as metaphors for productivity.]

Inspiration is a tricky mistress. It comes in fits and starts. An idea can erupt in the mind without any advance warning. How it got there, nobody knows. Could have been the conversation from the night before; the breakfast meal; the antioxidants in the coffee; who knows.

Once inspiration strikes, you’re charged with electrifying energy. The idea seems both valuable and feasible. It’s a drugged-like state. The intellectual vision narrows (in the sense that other Chrome tabs close) and action begins.

It can disappear just as quickly. Getting blocked punctures the balloon of excitement behind the project. Unless another source of motivation has been captured (affirmation from others, technical curiosity), the whole thing comes crashing down like the Hindenburg.

This is the state of most Github repos. A few excited commits, then intellectual death. Aw shucks, brew install failed, and there’s no easy fix. The idea is now less feasible, the motion is stopped, and like a train losing kinetic energy and starting it again requires a lot of force. (I think this is why todo lists grow endlessly. You can serialize the task, but not the energy behind it.)

Software startups work because you can get far enough on inspiration before getting blocked. An 18-year old in Buenos Aires is building the next Instacart right now. She’s able to push far enough on the temporary rocket booster of inspiration and escape Earth’s gravity, because she can build and launch without asking anyone anything. Once she’s out of orbit, other forms of fuel (talking to users, revenue) can propel her forward.

This is a very unique concept. Is software the first ubiquitous productivity engine? When have we had something that (a) was in everyone’s home (b) could be used to create value by anyone (c) offered zero cost experimentation and (d) could scale very quickly? Maybe the piano with sheet music?

Not everyone makes it to space. Even with this magic, some launches still fail. Like I mentioned above, sometimes you get blocked. Or get bad feedback. There’s about one trillion things that can go wrong, which is why most startups fail.

Pioneer’s goal is to be SpaceX for startup inspiration. We are trying to build reusable rockets that can carry payload (the founder) into space (the free market). We are trying to positively charge people with sufficient lift energy to go from small company to big.

Biology seems hard in this regard. From afar (I am not a biologist), if software could be analogized to a Saturn-V rocket in terms of lift power, biology is mentos and coke. You can’t fly that far up before needing to talk to someone about something. Or ask for permission. Etc.

Startups are statistically silly. You’re on a ledge. You stare down. You can see hundreds of bodies are buried there. And yet there’s a queue, miles long, of people cheerily jumping off the cliff. “I’ll just be knitting my wings on the way down, you see”. Why would you ever do this? I find (in myself and other founders) that you never really know the true reason why. It’s just an energy that needs to be deployed.