This Is What the Beginning of a Startup Looks Like

10 Years To Get To One Moment


Last night I played matchmaker.

After a couple weeks of wrangling the schedules of two particularly busy people I know well and respect, I finally sat down for a few beers with them. One of them has an idea and some means of getting it executed, the other has a ton of talent and an itch.

It took just minutes for these two personalities to gel and another half an hour for this idea to go from so-crazy-this-just-might-work to so-stupid-this-is-going-to-dominate. I got to sit back and watch it all happen.

Names changed to protect anonymity.

Floyd is looking to disrupt an industry that he's been working in for the past 10 years. He's become an authority and he's frustrated at how little progress is being made bringing his science into the mainstream.

Sarah is a techie who has dabbled in Floyd's industry as a hobby -- call it a fascination -- and before she got into tech she spent a few years out of college working at the fringes of Floyd's industry.

She didn't stay long because the industry sucked -- no innovation. So she's got ideas of her own, and getting to hear Floyd's thoughts on her ideas pushed just the right buttons, giving her the confidence to expand upon those ideas in a technical arena.

I have no doubt that Floyd's ideas will drive the company and Sarah's skills will push the tech to new limits. I got to sit back and watch and translate when necessary. It turned into a play-by-play of a startup formation and it was a beautiful thing.

Here's how it went down.

The industry is one that's just starting to to emerge into the mainstream. In five years, it could be huge, something you think about every day. Right now, it's not, unless you're cutting edge or a hobbyist. Even then, you have to know a good deal about the technology to be able to use it properly.

Floyd thinks the channels that are exposing this tech to the mainstream are doing it wrong. I can't confirm it, but I have a healthy suspicion that he's right.

There are two forks in Floyd's plan. The first is changing the way people identify with and value the tech, moving the decision matrix from what they've heard to what they need.

This is where I think he's onto something. But it's not an easy road. Nobody needed a smartphone, nobody needed a tablet, nobody needed a smart watch. Those markets created or are creating themselves, but not without a lot of failure along the way.

The second fork is building on and enhancing the delivery method of the tech, which means a cleaner interface, an intuitive UX, and a massive database. Sarah can build it, Floyd can lean on his connections to seed it, and then the rest ought to be automatic, once the revenue streams get figured out.

By the end of the hour, Floyd and Sarah had spun up about a dozen use cases, and then two or three more hooks where the tech they're imagining for Floyd's industry could be put to use in other industries with similarly explosive results.

I stopped them there, told them to come up with some next steps, and sent them on their way, knowing for sure that there was a fire burning now where there were just a few sparks a couple hours prior.

And I paid for the beers. Believe me, the experience was more than worth the price of admission.

So that's how it starts. That's the moment when things go from “you know what somebody should do?” to “here's what we're going to do.”

The moment was the culmination of probably 10-plus of Floyd's years and five-or-so of Sarah's. Then at some point each of them had to meet me. Then I had to have the a-ha moment. Then I had to introduce them.

Goes to show you that even when this shit happens overnight, none of it happens overnight.

So here's a modest proposal. If you decide you know two entrepreneurs and it's a crime that they haven't met yet, you should first check with each person to make sure that the introduction is welcome and will provide value.

But then you should personally meet with them that first time. You'll provide a huge service in being able to moderate and translate, much like I did with Floyd and Sarah, and if your original instincts were correct, you'll walk away with a nice warm feeling, knowing you just helped two people get a little further along in this world.