So, what does boxing and starting a startup have in common? Uncertainty.
It’s true. In any given fight, anyone can win or lose, and the only way to victory is to knockout the other fighter. But delivering a knockout is easier said than done.
With startups, it is also the same. It’s not enough to create an awesome product with cool new features, you still have to make sure that whatever you’re creating solves a problem for a customer. Successful startups solve a problem. If it doesn’t, then it will fail. It’s the cold honest truth.
Getting back to boxing. Though some people may find boxing tough and brutal, the sport is given the phrase “The Sweet Science” for a very simple reason. Boxers use technical strategies to outclass their opponents. Boxing is still complicated sport, yet with a very simple objective – beat the other opponent for a knockout or win enough points to win.
Well, a week ago, I was watching the big fight between Manny Pacquaio and Brandon Rios. It was Pacquiao’s first fight back since getting knocked cold by the Mexican Fighter Juan Manuel Marquez. And while watching fight, a lightbulb just went off in my head, and realized that boxing, managing the fight in the ring, in a simplest way – was using the basic principles of the Lean Startup method.
So here’s Eric Ries Lean Startup method applied to boxing, and it’s similarity with startups.
Build. Measure and Learn.
Build a game plan – mentally and physically prepare for the opponent. This includes a lot of research watching tape – finding flaws, tendencies and bad habits.
If you’ve seen all the pre-fight interviews and documentaries made before each fight – you probably know what I’m talking about. Each fighter has their own training regimen and approach in creating a plan to break down the opponent.
During the first rounds of a fight, all the assumptions are tested out – does it all work or not. Both fighters are testing the waters on how the other fighter will respond. Clearly, in the boxing fight, you have to make quick decisions whether your game plan is working or not.
When the Pacqiuao -Rios fight started, I noticed how each move in the first round was calculated, each fighter testing out their assumptions about the other fighter. Obviously, there is no intention for a knockdown at this point, but merely testing out the opponents reaction to jabs, body punches and combinations.
Do you stick with your plan or try to change gears to adapt to the other fighter’s approach.
At the end of every round, each fighter goes back to their corner to rest, but more importantly – to listen to their trainer’s comments and advice. Though a fighter’s perspective against his opponent is important, his trainer’s perspective “outside” the ring is invaluable information as well. The trainer sees everything that’s going on, providing advice that is more objective and not emotion driven. Good fighters listen to their trainers.
During the later rounds of the Pacquiao-Rios fight, Manny Pacqiuao was consistent with what was working with his plan. He knew how to get around Rios, moving and shifting in the ring and landing the right punches to score. He may not have knocked out Brandon Rios, but it was more than enough points on the scorecard to win the fight.
I think Mike Tyson said it best with this quote:
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” – Mike Tyson
No matter how good your preparation is, you have to be ready to adjust and adapt to any situation – to build, measure and learn in order to be successful.
Every startup has vision and plan for their product, but unless they test out their hypothesis and assumptions early on, they might produce a product that nobody wants.
But if you get your facts right, if you test out your hypothesis early on, iterate and adjust your business model based on customer feedbacks, then you are stacking the odds for successful startup. Your startup’s product will be a knockout!