Crunchtime

I love NBA playoff basketball, especially when there is a highly competitive series that comes down to a final game 7. I woke up at 4am in Frankfurt to watch the end of the Warriors and Thunder series. I sure hope you watched the entire series. It was fantastic competition. With the Warriors down 3-1 games and on the brink of elimination, they fought back with two wins in a row. And ultimately the series got boiled down into a 12-minute last quarter of game 7 to determine the winner. Called Crunchtime in the world of sports and this is when superstars become legends, new stars are born, and aspiring stars get exposed (insert your own cliché). 

There is a very fine line between winning and losing. Not unlike sports, the same is true with startups that succeed and the ones that fail. I saw a few things during game 7 that ring true with young companies.

First was execution. It was a major factor, if not the defining factor, in the Warriors winning the game. They ran their plays, passed the ball around and stuck with the same formula they found to be successful throughout the entire series. Startups build a product, market and sell it, and maybe even pivot, all with the goal of finding a repeatable model. Once they do, they exploit it to their advantage and execute like crazy just like the Warriors did.

Second was fight. I was shocked how it appeared that the Thunder stopped fighting with about a minute left in the game. Its was like they accepted an outcome of losing even when the game winner was not determined. Startups have to fight for everything - first customers, the best employees, VC funding, etc. They can never give up and never stopped until the clock hit zero, no matter how bad things seem to be. So many times startups come within seconds of failure only to climb out the hole and win. 

Finally was team effort. Everyone contributed for the Warriors by making shots and key defensive plays. Because of their execution and fight, each Warrior player was empowered and expected to provide a meaningful contribution. But when it was time for the Warrior's leader to step up and take responsibility, Steph Curry took and made the big shot. No startup wins on the back of one person. It is always a team effort. And no startup will win without a leader (leadership team) to make the critical decisions at the right time to bring the win home. 

What do you believe startups can learn from sports?