Sunday, June 16, 2013

Are you a cockroach or a sabretooth?

Consider the cockroach:

The cockroach has been around for over 300 million years, and has outlasted countless other species.  It's secret?  It's nearly impossible to kill:
"Cockroaches are among the hardiest insects. Some species are capable of remaining active for a month without food and are able to survive on limited resources, such as the glue from the back of postage stamps. Some can go without air for 45 minutes. In one experiment, cockroaches were able to recover from being submerged underwater for half an hour."
The cockroach isn't the most glamorous of animals (for example, I've never heard of a professional or college sports team that adopted the cockroach as a mascot) but it has a remarkable track record of success.

Contrast the cockroach with Smilodon, AKA the sabre-toothed tiger:

Sabre-toothed tigers are exemplars of charismatic megafauna--large animals with popular appeal.  Diego the sabretooth is a popular character in the "Ice Age" movies; the last heroic cockroach I can recall is Wall-E's friend in the Pixar movie of the same name.

Yet sabre-toothed tigers are a miserable failure from an evolutionary standpoint, in comparison to the humble cockroach.  The tigers lived for about 2.5 million years, dying out 10,000 years ago after their big, slow-moving prey went extinct.  The cockroach has been around 120 times as long, and is still going strong.

Which is the role model you've followed for your startup?  Patient, frugal, and unsexy like a cockroach?  Or flashy and risky like a sabre-toothed tiger?

Being a sabre-toothed tiger gets you TechCrunch headlines and "buzz."  But being a cockroach lets you fulfill the #1 job of the startup CEO: Survival.

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