Kayak Startups: Navigating the Entrepreneurial Waters

Day 156 Week 23 Q2 Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Have you ever pondered the parallels between launching a startup and paddling a kayak? Both are endeavors that necessitate a readiness to metaphorically ‘get wet.’ Kayaks, ranging from 6 to 24 feet, symbolize the diversity in businesses’ scale and complexity. Regardless of size, each journey is laced with risk and uncertainty.

If your preference is a zero-risk environment, you might opt for the role of a passenger or an employee. Conversely, there’s a certain thrill in capsizing in benign waters—where the depth is manageable, the currents gentle, and devoid of jagged rocks or lurking predators. This analogy extends to the corporate world, where large companies often acquire smaller ones to dilute their exposure to risk.

Now, if you’re at ease in the vast ocean aboard a kayak—even a sizable one—you might not find the same satisfaction as a passenger on a colossal ocean liner. Yet, practicality sometimes dictates our choices; traversing great distances or fulfilling personal obligations like supporting a family, paying off a mortgage, or purchasing a car may necessitate the security of a larger entity.

For those with a founder’s mindset, the allure of entrepreneurship is undeniable. Such individuals may not relish the idea of being mere passengers or employees. While practical reasons might compel them to assume such roles temporarily, it’s unlikely to stir their hearts or elevate their spirits. Age, too, plays a role in shaping these entrepreneurial appetites, requirements, and tendencies. We all have different strokes, and our internal compass may guide us to alternate between being a paddler and a passenger, depending on the situation.

Imposing a life of predictability on someone who thrives in the realm of the unknown is a recipe for discontent. The aspiration to be a pilot doesn’t inherently bestow the ability to fly. While learning to fly is an investment of time and resources, starting a company doesn’t come with the same prerequisites. Pilots need licenses; founders don’t need MBAs.

This brings us to the question of formal qualifications. Do musicians require degrees in music? Must kayakers be certified? Are trained psychologists better equipped to navigate their lives? The necessity of credentials is contingent on whether you’re willing to embrace the metaphorical ‘wetness’ of your field. Credentials can be beneficial, but they’re of little consequence when you’re charting a course through uncharted territories, where no degrees or certifications exist.

Some of us are innately inclined to be trailblazers, preferring to forge our own paths and establish our ventures. This orientation isn’t merely a choice; it’s an intrinsic part of our being. We enter the world ready to face the unpredictable, remain immersed in it, and are ever-prepared to capsize and right ourselves as we navigate the waters of life.