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5 things startups can learn from surfers


Surfing isn’t exactly the sport one would associate with startups, but there’s a lot to be learnt from hanging ten that applies to the world of online business:

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Know the conditions
Ideal surfing conditions are a cumulation of swell, tides and wind. Ideally, offshore conditions hold up he wave, giving the surfer more surface area on which to surf. Similarly, startups should have an idea of what their market’s conditions are — for example: knowing that iOS users monetise better than Android users means that iOS development takes precedence if you want to monetise early.

Know the locals
At every surf spot you get locals who surf there often, sometimes for their whole lives. They know the conditions better than anyone and are invaluable in getting a great surf out of the location. They’ll also help you out of the water when you take a surf board to the head and need stitches. Similarly, knowing the local startup guys in your area helps with regards to knowing how to remunerate your developers, finding funding and scaling up to service your users.

Go for lessons
Rome wasn’t built in a day and even great leaders like Caesar had to learn how to govern. Great surfers go for lessons in order to successfully pull off the basic moves like paddling in and popping up. Having an objective stranger critiquing your style also helps to iron out any bad habits. Similarly, people looking to startup a business can learn a lot from established startups: what major hurdles did they overcome, how did they scale, what didn’t they anticipate etc.

Be patient
Pick the right wave and take off at the right time: surfers get impatient in the water and often go for the first wave in the set. A wise surfer will read the wave correctly, paddle to gain momentum, and stand up when the wave is most capable of carrying them. It’s also important to know when the wave is dying or when to reposition yourself in order to get the most of out it. Great startups have the foresight to see when he wave of user interest is coming; they know how to harness that interest and, conversely, know when to pivot in order to regenerate that momentum if it is found to become lacking.

Know your board
Ever heard the phrase “horses for courses”? It basically means: use the right tool for the right conditions. Surfers know that small waves require longer boards in order for them to be ridden. Great surfers also know what their boards are capable of and don’t expect to do roundhouse turns on a board without thruster fins. Similarly, if your startup is aimed primarily at the African market, then you’ll want to develop for USSD phones and not smartphones. You’ll also want to know exactly what your startup can and can’t do so that you don’t over-promise and under-perform.

Image: mikebaird

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