What’s the worst that could happen?

October 15, 2012
Rich Smith
Rich Smith

Software engineer

I used to work with a successful and experienced chairman of a top-name mega-corp pharmaceutical. He used to say that the problem with Americans is that they are all “ready, fire, aim”. At first I was inclined to agreed with him despite being a confirmed Yankophile, but over the years I came to realised there was more to it than that. There really were times when “Ready, fire, aim” was the best option. For when you have no clear idea what to do. When you don’t have statistically significant data. When what you are currently doing isn’t working. When any action is better than no action at all.

What's the worst that could happen

photo credit: nettsu

This is has developed into the idea of – “What’s the worst that could happen? – I don’t know let’s find out”. Explicitly accepting the worst but working for better is extremely liberating. Facing the fear at the outset and working to improve on the worst means even small gains appear as noteworthy victories. It has echoes of some of my favourite philosophies – “Screw it, let’s do it” of Richard Branson, MVP and iterate of Eric Ries, BATANA – Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement, “Move fast and break things” Zuckerberg, “If it aint working then break it” – me, “Get off the bitch train” – Gary V, and numerous Comp Sci/AI optimisation techniques such as GAs, Hill-climbing, SA etc..

The “Ready, Fire, Aim” translates as take your idea, try it, then evaluate and reposition. Couple this with iterations and and you have a powerful process.

Now many startups battle to get into big name Accelerators – and generally with very good reason. Getting that golden ticket gets up 6-12 weeks of time to focus on your start-up, mentoring, a chance to mix with others start ups, get feedback and at the end of it all the opportunity to present your business to the world. This is seen as the quickest way to get that kick start to your company – to a get 2 or 3 iterations - loops around the fire-aim cycle. It’s intense but not that fast, not cheap and not for everyone.

Startup Weekends are designed to get you from zero to early start-up it 54 hours. It’s a Accelerator in a weekend. If it doesn’t work out you have found that out in a few days, not weeks or months. You haven’t blown your (perhaps) one and only chance at a fancy high profile accelerator, you haven’t spent thousands on salary, offices, design, market research, and the unmeasureable (sic) goodwill of your supporters - and your own precious stamina. With a Startup Weekend you travel miles along the road in just a single weekend. You’ve sped through your first iteration at virtually zero cost. You’ve begun the journey, shone the light in those dark places and moved forward.

That’s why I think you should join in at Startup Weekend Edinburgh. Form a team or join a team. Take an idea from fuzzy concept to prize-winning. Have fun, pizza, code, create, meet, laugh, talk, design, be nervous, be excited, be happy, come to the Edinburgh Startup Weekend and change your world! What’s the worst that could happen?

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