startups are like chess

Paul Graham said on an interview that running a startup is like playing chess.

I like this analogy and would like to extend it a bit.

He is right that in startups, like in chess, the basic rules are pretty straight forward and easy to learn. I’d add that the end goal is also clear both in chess and with startups.

He concludes his point by stating that being a good entrepreneur means starting to act on a strategy, and the same goes for a good chess player.

I think that the ways to learn how to be a good entrepreneur are identical to the ones that should be taken to be a good chess player.

To improve your chess game you have to:

  1. Play as much as you can, reflect and analyse every game.
  2. Watch other games and learn from them.

Exactly the only two effective methods to learn how to run a successful startup!

There are exceptions, Mark Zuckerberg, Bobby Fischer, they were born with a special talent. The rest of us, most of us, we need to put much more effort into learning how to be good.

[Claud Shannon](“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shannon_number”) estimated that the number of possible chess game variations is around 10120. It’s basically like saying that there are infinite variations for a game of chess.

And startups? there are also infinite variations for the startup game -

You can start something in your garage - bootstrapping, or you can start by raising $40mm from Sequoia, then you may have a meteoric growth rate or you can fail and pivot, sometimes your best employee will be a first time developer with no experience and some other times you’d get a rock star hacker that will fuck up your whole product and make your company go bankrupt.

You can memorise the opening moves. In chess my favorite opening is the French Defence. In startups most entrepreneurs today start with the Lean Startup methodology.

But after a few moves, you’d have to start thinking because chances are that you are going to find your self playing a variation that you’ve never played before.

So if you’d like to excel in the startups playground, just remember two things:

  1. Don’t sit there and dream - jump into the cold water and start doing. Fail fail fail and fail some more.

  2. Don’t just look at the Instagrams of the world with gazing eyes. Look at every startup you can and learn their moves. Find whatever you can about all kinds of startups, the lame ones, the ones that made great products, the ones that lost and the ones that won.

 
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