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8 startup lessons from Pinky and the Brain

In the world of startups, quick thinking is important and a willingness to keep learning should be a given. So are you pondering what I am pondering? I am fascinated by the television show Pinky and the Brain — the complete lunacy of it.

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In every episode Brain hatches a new plan in his never-ending quest to take over the world, which ultimately ends in failure. More often than not this is due to Pinky’s idiocy, the sheer impossibility of Brain’s plan, Brain’s own arrogance, or the fact that they are tiny mice trying to take over the world.

Using this as backdrop, let’s explore some lessons can learn from the world’s tiniest evil genius and his ever-faithful companion.

Know when to call it quits
Pinky: “Gee Brain, what are we gonna do tonight?” Brain: “The same thing we do every night — try to take over the world!”

There is no such thing as quitting for the Brain. No matter how many times his plans fail, which is every time, the mouse just won’t give up. That is real dedication. Admirable but foolish. In the real world, if your idea isn’t working, or just impossible, you have to know when to quit and re-evaluate the situation. Not every startup will survive. The key to making sure yours is one of the few that does is to keep your ideas in the realms of reality. A simple good idea is better than a grand impossible one.

Choose the right partners
The Brain would be nothing without Pinky. Loyalty is important in a startup. In the early days you are constantly playing around with ideas, changing and building new versions of your product. The beginning of a new company is a difficult, heartbreaking and lonely journey. The road to a startup is long and you need people you can rely on. What Brain has with Pinky is unwavering dedication — in the sometimes cut-throat world of tech, you need that. But you also need people who understand the vision. Pinky is often unreliable when Brain needs him to execute a plan. Pick the right people.

Don’t be arrogant
A key factor to Brain’s constant failure is his arrogance. If he was a little less arrogant there is a chance he may have succeeded in taking over the world once. Then again, if he wasn’t a giant megalomaniac he wouldn’t be trying to take over the world. Sometimes when building a tech company, you can caught up in it and get drunk with power. Try not go crazy and start dishing out business cards with the words “I am CEO, bitch.” Show some humility if you want investors to give you the time of day.

Focus: what is the mission?
As focused as Brain is on taking over the world, his plans always let him down because of their scale. That coupled with Pinky’s lack of focus, means that taking over the world never quite works out. Once you have decided on an idea, you have to stay focused. By being focused you find that you get more things done without the distraction of too many ideas.

Strategy is very important
Brain is a master of strategy. They may not work out very well for him but at least he has some in place. Come up with a set of goals for your company that includes timelines and very specific targets. If you have a clear strategy on the various ways to achieve these goals things tend to get a little easier. Lists and Excel spreadsheets are much more useful than you think. Be realistic with your plans — adding “get one billion dollars worth of investment in six months” is not quite the right idea.

When in doubt, improvise
Chances are there will be a few circumstances beyond your control. Improvise when that happens. Always prepare for the worst and make contingency plans when your worst isn’t the worst.

Pinky-proof your idea
Make sure your idea and product is idiot proof. If people battle to use your product or service then you have a problem. Everything you build should be able to withstand the Pinky test. So ask yourself, will Pinky be able to execute this plan without botching it? If no perhaps you should rethink, because there are users out there that really don’t get it.

Try to take over the world
In a contradiction to the very first point, take over the world. Just do it slowly. Once the basics are sorted and things are running smoothly it’s time to take over the world. So make sure your business is scalable.

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