What I learned about Startups from Scuba Diving

Richardson Dackam

There is a close relationship between the concepts you learn in scuba and the startup world. Starting a company is like diving in the deep sea. Last year, I was part of Extreme Startup 2nd cohort; an incubator located in Toronto. I learned a lot during my time there as a backend engineer for Venio but also as an entrepreneur. Everyday investors would come and give us advices that I could relate to previous failures and envision future successes. When I recently passed my scuba diving exam I felt like a lot of concept taught in scuba could be applied to what I learned at Extreme.

Never hold your breath

This is the number one rule in scuba, and the risks are considered serious since they can cause death. As a startup the oxygen you’re supposed to breath is “growth”. Your startup should always grow even if it’s by +1% each day. Investors are not interested just by the idea but by how the idea and the people behind it can achieve continual growth. They want a good return of investment so they invest in companies that will bring them significant returns in 5 to 10 years.

Always plan your dives carefully.

Don’t start a business naively and unprepared. Pre-planing your moves will allow you to develop the right thinking and reflexes you’ll need to reduce the odd of success. In scuba diving every dive is carefully planed in advance and reviewed right before the dive. Just like diving, there are limitation in business. In scuba you only have a certain amount of oxygen and you’re not supposed to ascend too fast or you might get decompression sickness: Your startup has its limitation too: get to know them. Ask professional in your industry or read books about it. Figuring out the limitations will allow you to come up with the right solutions to face them. Sometimes these solutions will be the one that will help boosting your business.

Keep an eyes on your metrics

Diver are now equipped with amazing computers that can give all the metrics they’ll need for their safety underwater. Metrics such as how long can you dive in order to avoid decompression sickness or nitrogen narcosis, how deep you are diving, how many oxygen you have left in your tank… Your startup have its metrics too and as we already know startups are defined by growth, and only metrics shows how much you’ve grown. By keeping an eyes on your metrics you will know at what pace your startup is evolving. When you are doing well or when you are doing bad. It will also show investors that you are doing a great job, but more importantly; you will have a basis that you could use to grow even faster. In scuba diving you never want to find yourself running out of oxygen. In business, you never want to find yourself under performing; especially as a startup. Whenever your business metrics will reveal under performance from the goals you set yourself: Figure out how to improve that immediately like you would rush to get air when you have no more oxygen.

Meet people

I agree that we should all focus on growing our business but we should never forget that the interaction we have with people and the connection we make could open the doors we’ll need. So, just like the scuba mantra tells us “Go places, meet people, do things”. Let’s not become business machines that just innovate and build stuff for profit and money; let’s connect with people: I believe in the exponential growth of small changes and the impact that we can have from one person to another.

Just to be clear; unlike scuba our goal as entrepreneurs should never be to dive but ascend. I always try to relate to these concepts on my ascension as a small business. Freeman Dyson tells us that Jacques Cousteau invented scuba diving because he enjoyed exploring caves. Before you dive into anything make sure that you enjoy it. This way you will feel like you are doing your passion for the rest of your life rather than having the feeling of “working” for ever.

    Richardson Dackam

    Written by

    Self-taught Designer, Developer, Videographer & Maker. Host of Shortcut to Mastery Podcast. Youtuber. Founder of,,

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