Chasing your White Whale
Your startup may be chasing a big, risky goal that seems just out of reach. But don’t obsess over it: you may end up sinking your business.
Don’t be Captain Ahab. In Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick, the obsessed Captain Ahab goes on a dangerous and ultimately futile hunt for the white whale that took his leg. Ahab’s single-mindedness and refusal to listen to reason cost him and his crew dearly and ultimately leads to the destruction of the ship.
In business, it’s important to be focused and to have a clear goal in mind. But it’s just as important to be flexible and to be able to adapt to changing circumstances. If you’re too rigid in your thinking, you may end up missing opportunities or making costly mistakes.
One such company is Juicero, a startup that sold a $400 juicer that was supposed to make it easy to make fresh, healthy juices at home. The problem? It turns out that you can get similar results by squeezing the bags of pre-cut fruit and vegetables yourself, without the need for a fancy machine.
The company raised millions of dollars in venture capital, but it was ultimately unable to make a go of it and shut down in September 2017.
In the business world, there are too many examples of companies that have been unsuccessful because they refused to change. Blockbuster, for example, was once the dominant player in the video rental business. But it downplayed the importance of video streaming, and as a result, it was ultimately eclipsed by Netflix.
Your startup may be chasing a “white whale” — a big, risky goal that seems just out of reach. But don’t be like Captain Ahab. Stay flexible, listen to your team, and be willing to change course if necessary. Otherwise, you may end up sinking your business.