Oops: The Seed Startup’s Single Most Important Tool

There is an important tool that all seed startups have at their disposal. It is small, yet significant, and has the ability to propel entrepreneurs to success or destroy larger competitors. It is the ability to make mistakes.

This answer may seem simple — even humble — but consider for a second your own existence. If you’ve tuned in to Westworld on HBO, you may have heard Dr. Robert Ford (played by Anthony Hopkins) say it best:

“Evolution forged the entirety of sentient life on this planet using only one tool…the mistake.”

Photo: John P. Johnson/HBO

Human beings only exist on this earth because of random mutations in DNA. Mistakes are what took us from bacteria to homo sapiens. Mistakes are imperative to progress and growth. And it isn’t hyperbole to say that the only reason seed-stage startups have a fighting chance against big companies is because of them.

In fact, the true power of the young startup is that they are able to make mistake after mistake, iterate, and constantly improve. And the reason they can do this is because, frankly, their product doesn’t matter.

I don’t say this to offend. More specifically, when a seed-stage startup makes a mistake, the cost is zero. The ramifications are nil and no one’s going to end up getting hurt. But when a large company like Google makes a mistake, the result is millions (or billions) in lost revenue, downtime for users, and a PR nightmare.

There is a massive asymmetry between the cost of a mistake for a startup vs. a big company, and successful startups use this to their advantage.

So wield your power as a startup in its early stages by being unafraid to make mistakes and bounce back. Turn “oops” into opportunities for yourself, and take the risks that bigger companies can’t and won’t. Relish in the fact that you have nothing to lose.

In a future post, I’ll dive into how both machine learning and smart hardware thrive because of mistakes. But if you’re mistaking your way to success in these sectors already — whether you’re pre-idea or have a product — let’s talk. Get in touch with Ubiquity Ventures.

Ubiquity Ventures — led by Sunil Nagaraj — is a seed-stage venture capital firm focusing on early-stage investments in software beyond the screen, primarily smart hardware and machine intelligence applications. More details at http://www.ubiquity.vc