How history’s greatest battle helped me build my startup – Part 2

Part 1 | Part 2

How to build your start-up ‘unfair’ advantage

This post is part 2 (out of 2). In my previous post (part 1) we came to see how Alexander the Great had used creative thinking in order to beat the mighty Persian Empire and conquered the world against impossible odds.

We entrepreneurs are always fighting against the impossible. We are willing to make dreams happen when all odds are against us. We need to move mountains and compete against giants enterprises. So, how can we do that? How can we compete against big companies? How can we win? We need to build our own start-up ‘unfair’ advantage against them, so we can compete and beat them.

Big companies, they have the funds, they have the manpower, they have the markets, they have their processes of execution, and they have their customers brand awareness.

What do we have in order to compete against them?

We have ideas, we have passion, we have ambition, we have courage, we have persistence, and we have creativity.

Well … It doesn’t seem like much.

How can we create our aid? How can we win against those odds? How can we make the impossible possible?

We will use the same creative thinking methods that Alexander used in order to achieve our goals.

So, creative thinking is the key. It’s the tool that we use in order to build our ‘unfair’ advantage against much bigger armies, or much bigger companies.

When we start our own company, promote our own ideas, and build our own product. We will use Alexander the Great methods to build our start-up.

We came to know that creative is the intersection between the new and the meaningful. We want our product to be new and innovative, but we also want it to be meaningful so that customers will happily use it.

Creative is the intersection between the new and the meaningful

So, we will use Alexander’s creative thinking methods to help us.

We will:

  1. Think different
  2. Challenge known consensus
  3. Innovate
  4. Change things
  5. Change the game
  6. Move fast and improvise
  7. Break the problem into smaller solvable pieces
  8. Always collect and analyze data
  9. Find the most effective product

Now let’s look at the above points in broader terms:

(1–3) Think different, challenge known consensus and innovate

Alexander came to the battle of Gaugamela and changed completely his methods of combat fighting. He realized that he needed to do so in order to win. He knew that if he will fight the same way that him, or his ancestor, always did, he will definitely loose. So he thought different, he challenged the known consensus, and he innovated.

When we start our start-up we also need to think different, innovate, and challenge the known consensus. The most successful Silicon Valley companies are the most innovative ones.

The world is changing.

We can see the Top 5 market caps companies in April 2006. We can see 2 companies from the energy sector, 1 from the industrial sector, 1 bank, and only 1 technology company (Microsoft) located at 3rd place.

Top 5 Market Caps Companies ($B) in April 2006

And today, eleven years later, we can see how this list have changed. Technology rules.

Top 5 Market Caps Companies ($B) in April 2017

So, the world is changing. It’s changing towards innovation. It’s changing towards technology. It’s changing towards creative thinking.

(4–5) Change things and change the game

Alexander changed the game by changing battle formation and creating modern military combat fighting.

For us, changing the game means, changing existing markets or creating new markets for our product.

Most known unicorn companies

We can see the most known unicorn companies today, and each one of those companies either created a new market or changed an existing market. For example, the companies ‘Uber’, ‘Lyft’, ‘Gett’, and ‘Via’ had changed the transportation market. And the company ‘Airbnb’ created a new market for short-term P2P property renting.

(6) Move fast and improvise

Alexander’ army was much smaller than Darius army, but Alexander moved fast and improvise during the battle. He created confusion and disorder at the Persians ranks and when he spotted the gaps at the Persian center-wing formation, he attacked in this gap.

Alexander attack at the Persian center formation gap

For us, moving fast & improvise is an essential and critical strategy. Moving fast is the most important, most deadly weapon of the start-up against big companies. Big companies cannot move fast enough, but the start-up has to move fast in order to survive and in order to win.

Mario Andretti was an American Italian driver, one of the best driver in the history of driving. And he said: “If you have everything under control, you’re not moving fast enough”. Same apply for start-ups. Don’t worry about control. Don’t worry about order. Worry about moving as fast as possible.

(7) Break the problem into smaller solvable pieces

Alexander knew that he cannot beat the entire army of Darius. They were simply too huge. So, what did he do? he broke the problem into smaller pieces. This way he realized that he doesn’t need to win the entire army of Darius. He only needs to win Darius center-wing. So his strategy was simple, make Darius send his left-wing cavalry, send his right-wing cavalry, send his middle-wing infantry and cavalry, and send his deadly scythed chariots. Now Alexander could have engaged, isolated, and attacked Darius center-wing formation.

Alexander engaged with Darius center-wing formation

When we begin our start-up, much time we face problems that seem too big to be solved. What do we do? We don’t give up. We break the problem into smaller pieces. Then we try to solve each piece by itself. We solve all pieces one by one and then combine them all to solve the entire problem.

(8) Always collect and analyze data

Alexander always collected and analyzed data during the battle. He did it in order to find and attack the Persian gaps. On our start-up, we always need to analyze data, because we are looking for the market fit and to find our most effective product.

(9) Find the most effective product

Alexander didn’t have any advantage in any parameter. He didn’t have the numbers in soldiers. He didn’t have the numbers in weapons. He didn’t choose the battlefield location. He didn’t have the best army, but he did have the most effective army. An army that could strike where it hurts the most at his enemy and could win battles against much larger opponents.

We don’t need the best product. Not at first anyway. We don’t need the highest quality product. We don’t need the most beautiful design product. But we do need the most effective product. The product that will give the highest value to our customers. Perfecting it to be the best in other categories, can be done later after we achieved the advantage of the first strike.

To summarize everything in one sentence, we can say that creative thinking is the key to build our start-up ‘unfair’ advantage to compete and beat much bigger companies (or much bigger armies).

The same strategy thinking that enables us to win on the combat battlefield, can be used in order to win on the business battlefield.

We understood how Alexander Macedon had used creative thinking in order to win against all odds. And we can use those methods to build our start-up and create its ‘unfair’ advantage in the market.

Creative Thinking is what made ‘Aléxandros ho Mégas’ to become ‘Alexander the Great’.

Creative thinking is what made ‘Aléxandros ho Mégas’ to become ‘Alexander the Great’

Part 1 | Part 2

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