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Startup Kobayashi Maru: Tips For Winning The No-Win Scenario


Note: Please read this and vote for me here

For you Star Trek fans, you might remember the reference to the Kobayashi Maru at the beginning of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.  Its a simulated test for all Starfleet cadets which introduces a no win scenario option to the students officer training.  The only cadet that has passed the test was Captain Kirk who sneaks in into the testing area and reprograms  the computer.

In startup life, you are typically presented with seemingly no-win scenarios ranging from running out of capital to enormous competitor threats.  The entrepreneur is often faced with no-win scenarios.  But entrepreneurs are too stubborn and savvy to accept a no-win scenario. 

Here are some tips for applying the savvy of Captain Kirk to your business:

  • Pivot your business model – so the current business isn't working?  Well, try another one.  It can work and here's a post on that here. Kirk
  • Sell to a competitor – maybe two is better than the price of one.  Example, two comparison travel shopping companies (Kayak and Sidestep) that do basically the same thing determine that they can get critical scale by merging.


  • Know your competition – are there ways in which you can be a fast mover through your business model or your product strategy that can help you maneuver around a threat.  Google makes their money on search and display advertising.  Not social networking.  Google+ is attacking Facebook thru their core revenue stream (gaming) by providing a platform and more attractive rev shares to developers.
  • Attach yourself to a platform (and become a killer app) – figure out what a larger company needs and fill a need for them.  In terms of gaming, smaller and scrappier companies like Rovio and Lima Sky who developed Angry Birds and DoodleJump respectivley embraced the iPhone in 2007 and built games that were tailored made for their platform. That caught the eye of Apple, their titles were promoted in commercias, iTunes, and everywhere.  Voila!  Hockey stick growth and success ensued. 

Not everyone can be Captain Kirk, but, you can certainly try to act like him.  If you are interested in hearing more then please vote for me to speak at South by Southwest.


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