Building a startup is just like travelling, except it lasts longer

Lyra Reyes

If you’re lucky, that is.

As someone who (1) loves to travel, (2) has built a business from the ground up, and (3) worked at several startups, I have had the opportunity to see some similarities between travelling and starting a business.

Travel and startups, after all, both require money, effort, a lot of patience, and a little bit of luck to become a success. They both have an impact on one’s economic, emotional, and intellectual well-being, both require quite a bit of courage, and both exposes one to a lot of new and different things.

How similar? This similar:

1. You choose where you’re going

Travel: As first steps go, this is harder than you might think. It is not simply spinning a map and going wherever your fingers land – though that method is fun and sometimes the beginning of great stories – but a decision that requires careful consideration based on several factors like what you’re going to do there, what you hope to achieve, and how much effort you want to put in actually getting there, among other things.

Startup: Sometimes this is as simple as making the decision to formalise/monetise a solution that you have created. Oftentimes, it is trying to come up with ideas to solve a problem or capitalise on an opportunity. What is your product? What solutions are you providing to solve which problems?

2. You need to spend time on research

Travel: Go online to do even the most rudimentary research before your trip unless you want to find yourself huddled up in a cottage during a typhoon when you intended to lounge out in the sun. Check up on the weather, transportation options, things to do, cultural practices, and even political climate to help in your travel planning.

Startup: Go online and offline to thoroughly research before jumping into it unless you want to end up creating a product that no one will use. Check up on the market condition. Is there even a market or potential market for it? How is the whole industry faring? Who are your possible competitors? What’s their business model? What value can you bring that sets you apart from what is currently available in the market? Not doing your research is not only risky but, given the availability and ease of acquiring information, almost seem like sacrilege.

3. You get overwhelmed by the amount of information you have. Still try to organise it anyway.

Travel:You have already spent hours crawling through countless blogs, reviews, videos, ads, and whatnot and you realise you have so much information. As much as you want to be able to process all of them, there will be a bit of panicking on your part and it is oftentimes at this stage when you think about just winging it. Don’t wing it. Just choose which information is most important to you and focus on that. Decide which information is most important to you; focus on data that serves your purposes and put to the back burner those you do not presently need.

Startup: If you did your research well, you probably have a massive amount of information and data. As much as you want to be able to process all of them, there will be a substantial amount of panicking on your part and it is oftentimes at this stage when you think about just winging it. Don’t wing it. Rank you data from most to least important and then go from there. Data is your friend but it can be overwhelming. Learn to prioritise.

4. You invite some people to join you and you’re picky about it.

Travel:For the purposes of this article, let’s say you don’t want to travel by yourself. So, you call a select few family or friends to join you. The people you would want to travel with are the ones you share interests with and/or enjoy the company of, who also has the capacity and interest to go on that trip with you. Remember that even a well-planned trip can’t fully avoid unpleasant circumstance. How the trip will end up will depend on how you and your companions react to any circumstance that may arise.

Startup: You think long and hard about the people you’re going to hire or go into a partnership with. Choose the ones who have the skills and talents you need, who you can learn from, and who can collaborate productively. How your business achieves successes and how it views failures would depend on who your team members are.

5. You make time to secure your documents

Travel: You prepare your documents; it is very helpful to have airline tickets, hotel confirmation, and itinerary within easy reach while you travel. Also ensure that documents such as passports and visas are secured beforehand and as required.

Startup: You make sure all business-related registrations are in order. You do not want to run afoul of the government.

6. You need to be flexible

Travel: Over the course of your travelling environmental, social, and political situations may arise that would require you to change your plans. Activities may be seasonal, or you woke up late and wasn’t able to get there in time, or your country suddenly got caught up in a war like in the movie The Terminal. Whatever the reason, being flexible is a good thing.

Startup: Markets can rapidly change and you need to be able to adjust. It is almost a guarantee that your first idea is not the exact same product you would roll out to the market. Sometimes you need to add features, sometimes you need to strip off features, and sometimes you need to make a complete pivot.

7. You will always be tired yet fulfilled

Travel: Sleepless night, walkathons, meeting new people – not to mention the actual travelling and sometimes jet lag – wears a body down. The thrill of discovery while travelling oftentimes make you willingly exchange rest for more time to explore. But you think it’s worth it because you learn and experience so much.

Startup:> Sleepless nights, meeting new people…you know what, everything about building a startup wears a body down. But if you can make it work? It’s the best feeling in the world.
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