Throwing shit against the wall ain’t entrepreneurship

With the rise of hackathons and startup weekends it seems that successful businesses can be routinely created in a matter of hours.

On a related note: some people question the value of business strategy and planning in the face of shortening business cycles.


Listen: just as buying lottery tickets is no substitute for knowing how to earn a living, and hail-Mary passes by themselves don’t win football games, throwing business ideas indiscriminantly against the wall to see what sticks isn’t entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship is the skill of turning creativity into a sustainable business. The “sustainable business” part requires careful thought and execution. Remove it from any definition of entrepreneurship and you turn “ready, aim, fire” into “fire, fire, fire” in the blind hope of hitting a target. ANY target.

Yes, business cycles are getting shorter. So reduce your strategy and planning cycles accordingly.

Yes, technological changes present frighteningly large, swift and powerful challenges. But the heat of battle is no time to panic; this is precisely when a cooler head with a well-considered strategy prevails.

Yes, complex and time-consuming strategy and planning methodologies are increasingly obsolete. But don’t throw your thoughtful baby out with the turgid methodological bathwater. Instead, find a strategy and planning approach that’s better suited to today’s faster pace — one that encourages you to think critically.

Hey, I don’t mean to disparage hackathons and startup weekends. They provide an exciting new approach to the “creativity” part of our entrepreneurship definition. Just keep in mind that the Red Bull-fueled rush of cranking out a potential new business model is only the first step; it must be followed up by strategic thinking.

Now THAT’S the start of entrepreneurship.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Wayne Trattles

    Hi Alex,

    Great post.

    There is a growing fad of corporate funded hackathons. I have a hunch that some companies are trying to cover up a lack of internal innovation training an programs by using the small scale “X-Prize” approach to solving their problems. Those events aside, there are some great opportunities for entrepreneurs to get together and work through some real-world problems.

    I believe the power of a hackathon is about the possibility of creating a new team or strengthening a existing one, around a solving a specific problem in a short space of time.

    Everyone has standout memories from their library of “we had to pull an all nighter to get the problem solved” . Its an experience: ordering pizzas; getting pissed when someone starts taking a completely opposite direction; apologising about getting pissed off… and finally the high-5 team sharing when it all comes together.

    The team that goes through a hackathon process successfully and can still have a beer together at the end of the day, they are going to be better prepared for the 365 days just like it you are going to in the start-up.

    As for the ideas, concepts or prototypes that come from a hackathon, you are spot on: it is only the start of the entrepreneurial process. Just about everyone agrees that the days of the 50 page “Business Plan” are over for all but the Corporate Innovators.

    Planning is critical. The answer is scaling the planning process appropriately, not trying to avoid it. That is where applications like your StratPad to come into play. The framework is light, but complete.


    1. aglassey

      Good to hear from you, Wayne. Don’t forget to fill out the survey – you’ve still got a few hours left. BTW, I may be in Oz in July for a couple of weeks. Let’s be sure to connect. I think one of us owes the other a beer but I can’t remember who owes who… 🙂


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